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 February 5, 2024

NY Professor Caught Holding Machete To Reporter’s Neck Reportedly Fired

In a case that has caught the attention of both the academic and the wider community in New York, Shellyne Rodriguez, a former professor at Cooper Union, has become the center of a heated controversy.

Rodriguez was dismissed from her position following a series of actions and comments against Israel, culminating in her participation in a panel supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and making derogatory remarks about Jewish landlords and public figures.

Her termination came after a distressing incident where she was filmed holding a machete to a journalist's neck, raising serious questions about the intersection of free speech, academic freedom, and personal conduct.

Educator's Controversial Exit from Academia Amidst Free Speech Debate

Shellyne Rodriguez's journey from an educator at Hunter College to her recent dismissal from Cooper Union has been tumultuous. Last year, she faced termination from Hunter College after the alarming incident involving a machete and a reporter.

This year, her career took another hit when Cooper Union decided to sever ties with her following a controversial social media post about "Zionists." Rodriguez's reaction was swift and public, as she decried her firing as an act of "fascism" in an email to her students, a sentiment that was quickly picked up and shared by the Cooper Union Students for Justice in Palestine.

Despite the uproar from certain student groups who likened her dismissal to "McCarthyist repression," the administration of Cooper Union has remained tight-lipped, offering no comment on Rodriguez's termination. The decision to fire Rodriguez has split opinions, with some viewing it as a necessary stand against antisemitism and others as an assault on academic freedom and free speech.

Timeline of Controversy and Conflict

Initially caught on camera holding a machete to a reporter's neck and berating students at Hunter College, Rodriguez's behavior spiraled into further contentious actions and statements. Her sentencing to behavioral therapy for menacing did little to quell the growing concern among the academic community and the public.

Her involvement in a BDS movement virtual panel, where she encouraged rent strikes against Jewish landlords, added fuel to the fire. Rodriguez's comments during this panel, perceived by many as antisemitic, sparked widespread condemnation online. The fallout from these actions led to her eventual firing from Cooper Union, an incident that occurred amidst a backdrop of tension, including pro-Palestinian protests at the school.

Rodriguez's firing from Cooper Union has been a polarizing issue, drawing criticism and support from various quarters. Jewish students at the institution expressed relief at her departure, while figures like Jeffrey Lax have criticized the school for hiring her in the first place, given her history. Rodriguez's prior conduct, including a confrontation with a pro-life table at Hunter College and the menacing charge for her attack on a reporter, has been cited as evidence of her unsuitability for a teaching position.

Voices from the Community

The response from the community to Rodriguez's dismissal has been varied, with some rallying to her defense and others applauding Cooper Union's decision. The Cooper Union Students for Justice in Palestine described her firing as part of a broader pattern of repression aimed at silencing voices in support of Palestine.

This firing represents an intense escalation of McCarthyist repression meant to intimidate and punish those in support of a Free Palestine, and must be resisted to prevent its further normalization and the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

On the other hand, Jewish students and faculty members have voiced their relief and approval, suggesting that her departure has made the campus a safer and more inclusive space for all students. Jeffrey Lax's statement underscores the situation's complexity, pointing out the dilemma institutions face when past behaviors of potential hires are overlooked.

Lessons to learn from this tragedy

The case of Shellyne Rodriguez offers several important lessons for both individuals and institutions:

  1. It underscores the importance of thoroughly vetting potential hires, especially in roles that influence young minds, to ensure they align with the institution's values and community standards.
  2. The incident highlights the delicate balance between upholding free speech and protecting community members from hate speech and threatening behavior. Institutions must navigate these waters carefully, with clear policies and procedures.
  3. Lastly, this situation serves as a reminder that actions have consequences. Public figures, especially educators, must be mindful of their conduct and the impact it can have on their careers and the communities they serve.

It's important to note that while these steps can mitigate risks, they cannot eliminate all potential for controversy or crime. The responsibility lies with both individuals and institutions to foster environments of respect, dialogue, and understanding.

Why this story matters

The dismissal of Shellyne Rodriguez from Cooper Union matters because it serves as a reflection of the broader societal debates surrounding freedom of speech, academic integrity, and the boundaries of acceptable behavior in public and professional spheres. This case challenges communities to consider where lines should be drawn and how to enforce them in ways that respect diverse viewpoints while ensuring safety and respect for all. Moreover, it underscores the need for dialogue and understanding in addressing conflicts that arise at the intersection of personal belief systems and professional responsibilities.

Conclusion: A Complex Web of Free Speech and Responsibility

The firing of Shellyne Rodriguez from Cooper Union over her anti-Israel views and prior controversial actions has ignited a debate that touches on the core values of academic freedom, free speech, and the responsibility of educators.

  • Rodriguez was terminated from Cooper Union following a controversial social media post and her previous firing from Hunter College for holding a machete to a reporter's neck.
  • Her dismissal has sparked a debate on free speech, academic freedom, and antisemitism.
  • Cooper Union's refusal to comment on the firing and the mixed reactions from the community highlight the complexities involved in such cases.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.
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