Letter of Support from Brooklyn College chapter of the Professional Staff Congress, CUNY’s faculty/staff union

The BC chapter of the PSC supports Laurie Rubel, Professor of Mathematics Education, who has become the latest “click bait” for the right-wing media’s outrage machine.  Dr. Rubel’s recent article in the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education was caricatured and decontextualized by Campus Reform, an online “watchdog” outlet seeking to curb academic freedom.  In turn, Fox News, Breitbart, and others set upon Dr. Rubel’s work with inflammatory mischaracterizations.  As a result, Dr. Rubel has received dozens of hostile emails daily, including threats of physical and sexual assault, some referencing her religion and gender.  Neo-Nazi websites such as Stormfront and Occidental Dissent have attacked her with virulent anti-Semitism. Dr. Rubel is a highly decorated member of the CUNY faculty: a Fulbright Fellow, a Distinguished Fellow at the Graduate Center’s Advanced Research Collaborative, a recipient of Brooklyn College’s Tow Professorship and Excellence in Teaching Award, and a National Science Foundation award.  Her academic credentials are beyond reproach.  But that is not the point.  These outlets are not engaged in challenging the methods or findings of academic research but in manufacturing bits of pseudo-news, coordinated to maximize social media exposure, intimidate professors, and discredit departments and institutions.  Such an environment is antithetical to academic research and teaching and must be condemned by the university.  Any of us could find our work willfully decontextualized and caricatured to fuel the outrage machine. Yesterday’s communication to School of Education faculty from Provost Tramontano and Dean Bedford was a welcome step. But it was not sufficient. A robust affirmation of academic freedom is one that circulates to the entire College community, is publicly available, and defines a faculty member’s rights more expansively than to publish, free from threat of personal injury, within her academic field in professional venues. We urge the University leadership to issue such a public statement of support for Dr. Rubel and to establish joint faculty-administration task forces on academic freedom on the campuses. Today’s toxic political and media environment demands a constructive collaboration on this matter of shared concern.
James Davis
Brooklyn College Chapter Chair, PSC