CUNY Law School graduates turn their backs on Mayor Adams

CUNY Law School graduates turn their backs on Mayor Adams

If Mayor Eric Adams needed a sign that his commencement speech to law students on Friday was not going well, the moment came before he even spoke.

As dean of the City University of New York School of Law, Sudha Shetty introduced Mayer in the Queens College auditorium on Friday, referring to her time spent on the police force. The crowd created a ruckus.

Things got worse when Mr. Adams came on stage and started speaking. Many of the newly minted doctors of law in black gowns and mortar boards turned their backs on him.

There was more swearing and heckles, according to video of the incident, which was closed to the press, and according to two people in attendance. said one person, even raising a few middle fingers.

The moment was evocative of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s experience of attending a police funeral early in his term (on the contrary), only for the officers to turn their backs.

Mr. Adams does not give such speeches with prepared remarks, according to his spokesman Fabian Levy, so there was no script from which to veer. But the mayor, who has a somewhat combative streak, quickly took charge of his position.

“We are seeing a clear lack of willingness to participate in healthy dialogue,” he told the students. He ended his remarks with a broad smile, commending the graduates for exercising their right to protest, but suggested they do more.

“My message to the graduates today,” he said, “my message to those who believe that their beliefs are the only beliefs in a diverse city like New York, my message to you is to live life instead of being an isolated spectator in a full contact sport.” Get out on the field and participate in making life better for the people of this city.”

And so ends an already difficult week for the mayor of New York City.

Thus far, he has been criticized for his reluctance to condemn Daniel Penny, the white ex-Marine who murdered Jordan Neely, a black homeless street performer, in the subway.

He faced an outcry from upstate officials for his decision to send migrants their way from the southern border.

He sparked an uproar when he suspended aspects of New York City’s decades-old “right to shelter” mandate, which requires the city to quickly move homeless families into private rooms with kitchens and bathrooms .

The start of the protests against Mr. Adams shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise; CUNY School of Law is known as a pipeline for public defenders and tenants’ rights and labor attorneys.

“CUNY Law School is where people who have this ideal of getting a degree to change inequities in the world go to train how to do it,” said Catalina Cruz, a state assemblywoman from Queens. Those who have obtained law degree from the school. 2009.

Established in 1983, its students have a renowned activist streak. At an early graduation, students and teachers played the “Internationale”, a socialist anthem.

Many students are first-generation Americans from communities with limited access to legal services. Early last year, the school honored Amazon labor organizer Christian Small.

During his speech, Mr. Adams tried to appeal to those left-leaning sentiments, noting that he had been a prominent critic of the police department when he was an officer. The students didn’t find that compelling.

“He committed brutal discrimination against the poor, even though he was an internal reformer while in the police,” said Genevieve Ward, 29, who initially did not attend but watched a video of the speech.

“It is disrespectful to ourselves to align our interests and our interest in policing with the interests of what we are taught at CUNY,” he said. “And the timing of it as well, with the murder of Jordan Neely and the absence of talking about it until two days ago.”

When asked why Mr. Adams had been invited to speak, a spokeswoman for the law school said that several elected officials had attended the event to “share greetings” with the graduating class, and then the officials listed.

“Mayor Adams respects the rights of the graduates who protested peacefully today, just as they have protested peacefully countless times throughout their careers,” said Mr. Levy, a spokesman for the mayor. “As the mayor always says, this city may have 8.8 million people, but it also has 35 million opinions.”

The mayor also suffered from poor timing: The speech came in the midst of a budget negotiation season where mayors are seeking funding cuts across the board, including for CUNY.

“The frustration of CUNY students, faculty and staff is understandable,” said James Davis, president of the CUNY chapter of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents faculty and staff. “Mayor Adams is making cuts at CUNY, depriving students of essential resources. leaving without.”


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