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On Thursday, December 1st, following large community outrage over its sponsored event at Books & Books to hold an in-person evening with author Susan Eva Eckstein, Florida International University (FIU) decided to move the event and change the format.
The controversy revolved around Eckstein’s book, Cuban Privilege: The Making of Immigrant Inequality in America, which defines the perils of Cuban-American immigrants, whose rights, properties and livelihoods were stripped away by the Castro regime, as privileged.
In Books & Book’s description of Eckstein’s book, it states that, “This book is the first to reveal the full range of entitlements granted to Cubans. Initially privileged to undermine the Castro-led revolution in the throes of the Cold War, one US President after another extended new entitlements, even in the post-Cold War era. Drawing on unseen archives, interviews, and survey data, Cuban Privilege highlights how Washington, in the process of privileging Cubans, transformed them from agents of US Cold War foreign policy into a politically powerful force influencing national policy.”
FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs and the FIU Cuban Research Institute were title sponsors of the event.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kevin Marino Cabrera was one of the first to speak out against the event, which was slated to take place in his district. “It is shocking that FIU’s Cuban Research Institute would welcome such hate-filled, inflammatory, anti-Cuban rhetoric to Miami-Dade County, home to the largest Cuban diaspora and the global capital of Cuban-American exiles who have experienced first-hand the repression of the brutal Castro-Communist dictatorship,” said Cabrera. “As the voice of District Six, a community which includes countless men and women who spent decades in Castro’s gulags as political prisoners and whose family members were executed or drowned escaping the Island, it pains me to see that one of our public universities would give credence to those repeating the Castro regime’s talking points,” he added.
In a statement to the FIU community, President Kenneth A. Jessell informed the community “After learning of the event several days ago, it became clear to me that we had an opportunity to enhance it by including other points of view so that we could have a balanced and objective discussion. The event now ensures that we meet the academic rigor and standards of debate and preserve everyone’s right to express their point of view while remaining mindful and sensitive to the experiences of our community. Dr. Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, spokesperson for the Cuban Democratic Directorate and author of ‘Cuba: The Doctrine of the Lie,’ will participate as the discussant. This format will ensure a scholarly and worthwhile discussion on an important topic.”
“Universities have a responsibility to uphold freedom of expression and support open discussion of issues, even those that may be controversial. At FIU, a public research university rooted in a community largely made up of exiles and immigrants who fled communism and other oppressive regimes, this responsibility takes on a new meaning. Academic freedom and civil discourse are at the heart of our mission. We know that our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members expect that we uphold these principles. As a native South Floridian, I have been blessed to know and work with many Cuban Americans. While I will never personally know the pain the Cuban exile community has endured at the hands of the totalitarian regime on the island, I have an appreciation for the history that informs this conversation and the many contributions Cuban Americans have made to the development of FIU, Miami, the State of Florida, and beyond. I assure you we are using these recent events as an opportunity to improve our processes and ensure we create programs that meet the highest academic standards while remaining sensitive to our community. We know you expect nothing less,” added Jessell.
Eckstein did not reply to Gables Insider‘s requests for comment.
The event will take place on Friday, December 9th at 7:00PM at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center on FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus.