CUNY Reacts to Petraeus Appointment

General David Petraeus will join the CUNY community as a visiting professor for the Macaulay Honors College, effective August 1, 2013, as stated in an announcement released by Dean Kirschner.

Petraeus is former four-star U.S. Army General, serving as the Commander of the United States Central Command before succeeding General Stanley McChrystal as Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Under President George W. Bush, he was responsible for executing the troop surge in Iraq, and is often lauded for creating the path for the United States’ eventual exit. He most recently resigned as Director of the CIA in November after an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, was revealed in an FBI investigation.

Petraeus holds an Master of Public Administration and a PhD from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He will be teaching a seminar titled Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?
, which explores the role of North America in ameliorating the global economic crisis, with a focus on energy, life sciences, manufacturing and information technology. Students must apply for the class, with a preference given to seniors.

“I knew little about Dr. Petraeus’ academic CV, knew he had a PhD but not that he had teaching experience as well as a long list of publications. I did not know that (like many Macaulay students and me) he too was the son of an immigrant family,” wrote Dean Kirshner. “We had several phone conversations, and then we met in Washington, which confirmed my initial reaction: Macaulay students, with their wide-ranging interests and intellect would find him a remarkable teacher and mentor.”

The CUNY Board of Trustees was responsible for overseeing his appointment to the Honors College.

Due to his critical role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as torture reports in the former, and the use of drones overseas, some former and current CUNY students and professors are against this new appointment.

“This is outrageous,” said Maha Akhtar on the Macaulay Honors College Facebook page. “I can’t believe Macaulay can actually appoint this war criminal as a Professor. This brings complete shame to me as a Macaulay alumni and reflects terribly on Macaulay, as a ‘scholarly’ community.”

However, not all students view Petraeus’s legacy as controversial. In a Macaulay GA meeting discussing the matter, Raj Basak (CCNY ’15) said, “This is amazing opportunity for students to learn from him and disagree with him. Given his experience and credentials, lots of students would find presence beneficial.”

“Adding Dr. Petraeus to the faculty at Macaulay is a benefit for the CUNY community at large,” said Michael Tal (Lehman ’14). “Though some thoughtful students have brought up important, thought provoking questions regarding the appointment and its possible implications for Macaulay, it should be remembered that at the end of the day, Dr. Petraeus would be another valuable faculty member. He is an academically respected individual who has a unique perspective to offer the students, like the rest of the professors at Macaulay.”

Nevertheless, some students believe Petraeus’s addition to the Honors College faculty signifies a shift in its atmosphere.

“One of my primary concerns with the Petraeus appointment is the way it fundamentally alters the way we interact at the Macaulay building. Macaulay is unlike all of the other CUNY campuses because security and policing are minimized. The appointment of such a prominent individual will require additional security measures, which changes the essence of the Macaulay building,” one Macaulay student who wished to remain anonymous said. “The beauty of Macaulay, and one of the reasons why I come to the building so often, is because I consider it home. The heightened security and policing associated with the Petraeus appointment take away from that homey and familial vibe.”

Despite his introduction to the CUNY and Macaulay community this week, including a meet-and-greet with current students and separate event with campus directors, little else is known about Petraeus’s arrangements outside of his tenure at CUNY (he was also named a visiting professor at USC, but other career prospects are speculative), or his future plans to reenter the public arena. This debate will continue as more is known, and his appointment’s effect on the Honors College and CUNY as a whole, for better or worse, will become apparent.

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