I just sent my first e-mail to a University President regarding the academic boycott of Israel by the American Studies Association, and the similar boycott just announced by the small and relatively new Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

I could not find a direct e-mail for the President of UT-Austin, so I emailed the Chief Communications Officer and Deputy to the President. (It is good to email the press people even if you do have the direct email, so that the email to the President is more likely to get attention.)

Here is my email:

To: Geoffrey Leavenworth (geoff@po.utexas.edu)

CC: Nancy A Brazzil (nancy@po.utexas.edu)

Dear Mr. Leavenworth:

I write to request the position of the President of the University of Texas – Austin on the academic boycott of Israel in two respects:

1. The University of Texas – Austin is an Institutional Member of the American Studies Association, which just adopted an academic boycott of Israel. The American Association of University Professors has rejected academic boycotts of Israel in general, and has rejected the ASA boycott specifically, on grounds of violation of academic freedom. The anti-Israel boycott also amounts to discrimination on the basis of national origin as Israeli academics will be subjected to verification procedures not applicable to academics from any other nation.

The ASA boycott is pernicious because it includes boycott of programs run by Israeli academic institutions and encourages American academics to police compliance with the boycott. You can find an explantion in my prior post about the boycott. This has particular implications for the University of Austin – Texas since the Schusterman Center interacts with many Israeli academics and institutions, and joint programing with such institutions would be subject to the ASA boycott.

Will the University of Texas – Austin continue its Institutional Membership in ASA in light of the boycott, and will University funds be used to support participation in ASA events that are not open to Israeli academic institutions and/or individual academics representing such institutions?

2. “The Office of the President of the University of Texas, William Powers Jr.” and “The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin” are listed as the lead Sponsors of the Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAISA) 2014 Annual Meeting to be held in Austin in May 2014.

NAISA just announced that it too is joining the academic boycott of Israel, involving the same discriminatory and anti-academic freedom policies as the ASA boycott. In light of the NAISA anti-Israel academic boycott, will the University of Texas – Austin and its academic units continue to be sponsors of the 2014 NAISA annual meeting?

Please let me know the President’s position as soon as possible, as I would like to inform my wide and influential readership where the University of Texas – Austin stands on thiese issues.

Thank you,

William A. Jacobson
Legal Insurrection Blog

I will let you know if and when I receive a response. Depending on the response, I may also write to the Chancellor of the UT system.

I would think that various Texas officials also would find it of interest, so please feel free to forward this post to them.

UPDATE:  A UT alumnus reader suggested another contact:

Note also that the UT College of Liberal Arts (CoLA) is also listed as a sponsor of the NAISA conference. The dean of that college is Randy Diehl: diehl@psy.utexas.edu.

As the CoLA is very new (spun off a few years ago from the oversized College of Arts & Sciences), he’s been particularly active in seeking funds from alumni (including me) …

(Featured Image source: UT-Austin Facebook)