By Zainab Iqbal
Published: October 24th, 2018
In February, computer science professor Rohit Parikh posted on his Facebook page, “I do believe that everyone who is illegally here should be deported.” Yesterday, students rallied against him demanding that action be taken by the Brooklyn College administration.
“Hispanics are GOOD people, gentle and nice and not at all criminal,” the post reads. “But are they really the population which America needs for the rest of this century when more and more education is required?”
According to Carlos Jesus Calzadilla, president of the Young Progressives of America (YPA), that post means that the US needs less Hispanic individuals. “This creates a hostile and unsafe environment for Hispanic and undocumented students and staff which threaten the values of Brooklyn college,” Calzadilla said. “He ignorantly makes the assumption that all Hispanics are Mexicans and that they are undesirable immigrants.”
We reached out to Parikh, who said, “While I can understand their feelings, I want to draw attention to two things I said.”
“Our planet now has more than 7.5 billion people and it is in danger. That means both the planet and our species,” he said. “I do not think these problems can be solved by massive immigration into developed countries. Making more of the planet livable and cutting down on our fossil fuel consumption is the only way forward.”
Parikh highlighted the fact that his original statement in his post said, “I do believe that everyone who is illegally here should be deported but that the US should support them, in their home country, for a period of one to three years depending on need and circumstances.”
Students are not taking any of it. Student Maya Garcia rallied against the professor, saying, “I knew the professors [in the Puerto Rican and Latinx Studies (PRLS)] cared about the students and their work more than any other professors on this campus. To see how underfunded my department is a disappointment and also saddening. I’m here today standing with my undocumented brothers and sisters.”
Calzadilla listed five demands he wants the Brooklyn College administration to fulfill: Wants President Michelle Anderson to swiftly condemn Parikh’s comments and stand with students, mandatory racial sensitivity training for all faculty and staff, more funds for PRLS, a center for undocumented students, and an investigation on Parikh.
Brooklyn College is home to many undocumented students. At the rally, students held their posters (written in both English and Spanish) and chanted outside the Library.
“We need our rights. Puerto Rico is in crisis. PRLS is in crisis,” student Isaiah Rivera said. “Undocumented students are in crisis. Where is our representation? Where is our justice? Where is Michelle Anderson?”
Unlike at the rally calling for the firing of Professor Mitchell Langbert, Anderson was not in attendance.
Computer and Information Science department chairperson Yedidyah Langsam argued otherwise. He told The Excelsior that there have been no complaints against Parikh from students.
“There are a substantial number of conservative faculty that share his belief that the college should not be a sanctuary for illegal immigrants,” he said. “You may disagree, but it is not blatantly racist, and none of his students have ever accused him of teaching within a hostile environment.”
“He has every right to express his opinion in the N.Y. Times, certainly not a bastion of conservatism. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, as is everyone within the Academic Community. A college community which only provides a one sided view would provide you with a poor education indeed.”
If the First Amendment allows professors to voice their opinions on social media, it also allows students to rally outside the Brooklyn College Library.
Parikh says, “I am 81 and will be 82 next month. Others will have to worry about this matter. It seems I can only get into trouble by offering my thoughts.”
Students at the rally say, “Sí, Se Puede, Sí, Se Puede, Sí, Se Puede!”