Professor Fired for Anti-Israel Remarks after Machete Incident with NYP Reporter

Cooper Union has reportedly terminated Professor Shellyne Rodriguez, known for a controversial incident in May where she was filmed holding a machete near a New York Post reporter. The dismissal, as reported by the New York Post on Sunday, is attributed to Rodriguez’s engagement in anti-Israel social media posts.

In an email to students, Rodriguez claimed that she was fired due to a social media post about “Zionists,” and she characterized the action as a form of “fascism,” asserting that observers were witnessing this in real-time. The communication was later shared on Instagram by the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the school.

The specific anti-Israel post leading to Rodriguez’s termination has not been officially confirmed. However, the New York Post pointed to a post urging landlords and businesses to sever ties with Israel, which critics argue involved the use of antisemitic tropes.

In response to the professor’s termination, the Students for Justice in Palestine expressed dissatisfaction, deeming it “an intense escalation of repression” that they believe should be resisted. The situation reflects the ongoing intersection of academic freedom, freedom of expression, and the complexities surrounding discussions related to Israel and Palestine within educational institutions.

A group has vocally opposed the termination of an esteemed educator at Cooper Union, contending that the university wrongfully dismissed her. In a letter addressed to the administration, the group defended her actions, emphasizing her advocacy against what they perceived as “genocide and settler-colonial violence.” According to the group, the terminated educator was an indispensable figure in the community and played a crucial role in the academic development of students.

However, CUNY Law Professor Jeffrey Lax, also a co-founder of ‘Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY,’ provided a contrasting perspective. He expressed that Jewish students at Cooper Union are relieved by her termination, describing her comments as “despicable.” Professor Lax raised concerns about commending the university for its actions, particularly in light of the educator’s prior conduct, such as holding a knife to a reporter’s neck. He suggested that the university should be more critical of its decision, asserting that hiring someone with such a history is a matter of concern. The situation underscores the complexities surrounding academic freedom, diverse perspectives, and the delicate balance universities must maintain in navigating controversial incidents involving their faculty.

About the Machete Confrontation 

Preceding the machete incident, reports indicate that Rodriguez engaged in a confrontation with a group of pro-life students distributing leaflets on the campus. According to accounts from the New York Post, when questioned about this encounter, she responded with explicit language, threatening, “Get away from my door, or I’ll use this machete on you!” Subsequently, she was captured on video holding a machete to the throat of a reporter. These actions led to her termination from multiple institutions. In response to legal consequences, reports suggest that she accepted a plea deal acknowledging charges of ‘harassment and menacing.’ As part of the court’s decision, she was mandated to undergo therapy. This sequence of events underscores the gravity of her behavior and the resulting impact on her professional standing, prompting both institutional consequences and legal obligations.

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