Judea Pearl renounces 'distinguished NYU alumnus' status over SJP award

"This sad happening at NYU unveils the power of ignorance in the electronic age," he wrote on Twitter.

April 22, 2019 03:20
2 minute read.
Judea Pearl

Judea Pearl. (photo credit: DANIEL PEARL FOUNDATION)


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Turing Award winner Judea Pearl has renounced his status as a distinguished alumnus of New York University, after the school announced the student group Students for Justice in Palestine would this week receive the President’s Service Award.

He wrote on Twitter that "this sad happening at NYU unveils the power of ignorance in the electronic age.

"I bet my esteem colleagues at NYU do not know that their university is awarding a 'president service award' to SJP," he continued.
Pearl, the father of the late journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by Islamic terrorists in 2002 while on assignment in Pakistan, graduated from NYU in 1965. He was granted a Distinguished Alumnus Award by the Polytechnic Alumni Association during a campus lecture in 2013 and is currently a chancellor’s professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles. 
Pearl made his renouncement in a letter to NYU President Andrew Hamilton, which was shared by Algemeiner: “In the past five years, SJP has resorted to intimidation tactics that have made me, my colleagues and my students unwelcome and unsafe on our own campus. The decision to confer an award on SJP, renders other NYU awards empty of content, and suspect of reckless selection process.”

He said that he himself has been in academia for almost 50 years and he knows the difference between free speech and campus norms, so would not accept the rhetoric - “platitudes about ‘free speech’ despite the fact that the US State Department now includes, in its definition of discrimination,  intimidation based on race, religion and ethnicity” - he claimed to have been met with by university officials when he attempted to voice concern.

“Entrusted with the mandate of maintaining a climate of learning and mutual respect, your office should distance itself from the SJP selection and explain to the campus why such distancing is necessary,” he wrote. “In the absence of a corrective action by your office the academic standing of this university is begging for other voices to call out the Orwellian character of (SJP’s) award.”

The Algemeiner reported that in an email last week, an NYU alumni official told Pearl that according to university spokesperson John Beckman, the award is annually granted to more than 50 extra-curricular clubs and 100 individuals and that award winners are selected by a group of student affairs staff members and a student representative. 


SJP announced the award in mid-April on its Facebook page, claiming victory in that, “Despite the pushback we have received from our institution, we agree that we have made ‘significant contributions to the university community in the areas of learning, leadership, and quality of student life.’”

The award was presented to SJP on Wednesday, April 17.

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