They have been locked up in a court battle over a proposed casino in Uniondale, and now they are facing off in a more public setting. But this time, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman says he won’t be satisfied until Hofstra University president Susan Poser resigns.
But the current debate is not over whether public meetings were properly noticed. Instead, Blakeman is fired up over statements Poser released following the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel in October intended to comfort Hofstra students — both Jewish and Palestinian — she says were directly affected by the Oct. 7 attack, and the war in Gaza that followed.
She wrote that the university mourns the loss of life, and fears the continued tensions will move the Middle East “even farther from lasting peace.” Poser notes that since the campus has students and employees who are directly affected by the tragedy, mental health support should be offered if it’s needed.
“As a community, we must abhor violence,” Poser said. “At the same time, individuals can have differing political views, particularly given the complexity of the politics and history of this region of the world.”
But that went too far for Blakeman, who wrote a letter to Hofstra’s board of trustees demanding Poser’s resignation. He described her statements as misguided and “antithetical to good moral values and judgment that it puts into question her ability to lead Nassau County’s largest private university.”
Hofstra’s board of trustees disagrees, telling Blakeman they stand by Poser, who like Blakeman, is also Jewish. Under Poser's leadership, the board said, Hofstra University has “remained an academic center of mutual respect and peace — even in these difficult times.”
It was a response Blakeman characterized as “disappointing and disturbing,” He told the Herald he hopes educators will approach the topic of the Israel-Hamas conflict with balance, and that he has nothing against teaching “both sides” of an issue. At the same time, Blakeman believes educators who lean far left of the political spectrum push students toward an “anti-American” mindset.
“I think that it's high time that we examined exactly what's being done in our institutions of higher education, because it appears that a lot of our children are being indoctrinated,” Blakeman said. “They're not being told the truth, and we need to make sure that we monitor all of our educational facilities to make sure that our children are being taught a balanced and fair history of what really is happening in the world.”
Blakeman’s call for Poser’s resignation comes during a major fight between the county and Hofstra over a proposed $4 billion redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale — a project that includes a controversial casino — not far from Hofstra’s campus.
Poser has expressed opposition to the casino, and the university sued Nassau County in court over the initial lease agreement between Blakeman and the Las Vegas Sands, claiming improper notice was given to the public over the meetings where the lease was approved.
A judge ruled partially in Hofstra’s favor last month, which could force the county to repeat the lease approval process, although an appellate judge later stayed that ruling pending appeal.
Blakeman told the Herald his opinion on Poser’s comments over Israel have nothing to do with her comments on the casino. It’s Israel’s right to “destroy a terrorist organization,” the county executive said, adding he believes too many professors in schools across the country are “anti-American and antisemitic,” and are funded by foreign governments that are hostile to American interests.
While a number of local leaders — both political and religious — have backed Blakeman on his stance against Poser, the county executive doesn’t have the support of Democratic Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who serves as president of the New York chapter of the National Association of Jewish Legislators.
Lavine described Poser’s comments as “every bit as condemnatory of Hamas as were the statements of other noteworthy leading university administrators.” He believes Blakeman's attack is “manufactured” and intended as “revenge for Hofstra's resistance to his plan to redevelop the Hub.”
There is no need, Lavine said, for “politicians threatening universities to teach only the narrow views that they espouse.”
Blakeman wrote to Lavine, saying the Assemblyman’s position is in-line with U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib and the informal group of far-left Democratic congressional members known as “The Squad.”
“To suggest only MAGA Republicans unequivocally condemn Hamas is absurd,” Blakeman told Lavine, referring to supporters of former president Donald Trump. “I suspect you are aware that Sen. (Chuck) Schumer, Hillary Clinton and President Biden are not MAGA Republicans.”
Hofstra officials told the Herald in an email they do not know where Blakeman’s belief about an anti-American mindset in classrooms come from, calling them unsubstantiated, claims that do not reflect the reality of what happens in classrooms at Hofstra.