By Najib Aminy
During his State of the County address, Suffolk County Executive and Stony Brook University alum Steve Levy called out the Political Science Department as being riddled with communists.
At the end of his speech, Levy stated his disapproval of the “blame America first crowd,” someone in the crowd had heckled “the President,” according to Newsday political columnist Dan Janison’s article.
Levy responded, “Well, it’s a lot of people…It’s a lot of groups out there who think we’re the bad guys…When I was in Political Science 101 in Stony Brook University, I had one of our professors, one of those communist professors—there were many of them, and I’m not making that up—who came out the first day [and said] as a matter of moral equivalency there were no good guys or bad guys in international politics, just national self-interest.”
Levy would go on to declare those who had fought for America against tyrants such as Stalin as good guys. However, he left the Political Science Department dumbfounded and insulted by his allegations of calling them communists.
“I think it makes him look foolish,” said Jeffery Segal, chair of the Political Science Department. The specific comment irked, “Nations aren’t right or wrong they have interests—It’s not a communist, not socialist, not even left or center point of view, it’s from the school of thought realism as practiced most heavily by Henry Kissinger.”
Kissinger was a staunch anti-communist who served as secretary of State under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
In 2003, the Political Science Department selected Levy for the Distinguished Alumni Award, the same year he would be elected as Suffolk County Executive. “He gave a speech to the graduating seniors about how what a nice department it was, and in the course of speech, he mentioned how much he owed to [the] university,” said Frank Myers, former director of the department and current professor. “He never indicated that he had any reservations on the kind of instruction, nothing like that came out,” said Myers, who taught at the same time Levy was an undergrad.
Levy, who had attended SBU between 1978 and 1982, said that while he had much respect for the university, he recalled a number of radical professors during his time as a student. Said Levy in an email, “I love the university. I was proud of it then and I am proud of it now. There are outstanding professors, but there were a number of professors who were downright anti-American when I attended.”
Levy’s office mentioned three instances of radical professors at SBU, which included Ernest Dube, a professor of African American Studies, and his failure to gain tenure after complaints of his teaching zionism and racism, Angela Davis, a former vice presidential candidate for the Communist Party as a visiting professor in the Philosophy Department, and Dr. Choichiro Yatani, who while being a doctoral candidate at SBU for Social and Personality Psychology who, according to the ACLU, was detained by immigration authorities after it appeared on a watch list for what Yatani believes was for his protests of the Vietnam War while he was a college student in Japan.
Upon further investigation, all three scholars were never in the political science department nor did their controversies arise when Levy was at Stony Brook.
“It should not be taken as a generalization that all professors or even a majority were radical, but there certainly were some who were anti-American in their lectures,” said Levy. “Things have changed dramatically at Stony Brook over the last 30 years, but there were a number of very extreme professors back in those days.”
Yet some within the department view Levy’s allegations simply as a political move. “He’s using us as sort of a whipping board to carry favor with some people,” said Helmut Norpoth, a professor in the department who specializes in electoral behavior and public opinion. “It makes me more than angry about somebody like him–you take us to get some advantage in the process to trash us, demean us and slander us. There’s something really terrible about that.” Norpoth had invited Levy to talk at the department’s commencement address in 2003.
Levy has held the position of county executive for two terms and was cross endorsed by the Republican party during his last election. He is a candidate for the upcoming New York gubernatorial race going up against incumbent Governor David Paterson. As for getting support from the Stony Brook political science department, that seems unlikely.
“I admired him, liked him, was proud of him for being one of our students and I felt this way until last Tuesday when he made the speech,” Myers said. “It’s an outrage.”