While legislation regarding academic boycotts is stalled in the NY State Assembly after widespread protests, a federal bill has been introduced by House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.). The bill is embedded at the bottom of this post.

Roskam was one of the Congressman behind the Letter signed by 134 Members of the House condeming the anti-Israel boycott by the American Studies Association.

The new Bill cuts off funding for institutions of higher education “if the Secretary [of Education] determines that such institution is participating in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars.”

“Participation” is defined as:

if the institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel.

My first and quick read is that the Bill, as drafted, is unlikely to accomplish the desired effect. It will make martyrs of the academic boycotters, who are in fact the villains, and amounts to a blunt instrument to deal with a narrow problem. There is no university, that I’m aware of, currently even contemplating an academic boycott of Israel. Also, the definition of “participation” is sufficiently broad that it will ignite serious pushback from universities.

The ASA, which had been a pariah, now will be defended by people who are against the academic boycott, but even more against such legislation.

I think there are ways to deal with the ASA and related academic boycotts. I’m not sure this Bill is one of those ways, as it puts at risk universities, not the ASA.

The story was first reported by Adam Kredo at The Washington Free Beacon:

The “Protect Academic Freedom Act,” jointly filed by House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.) could serve as a deterrent to other groups considering Israeli boycotts.

It would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 “to prohibit an institution that participates in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars from being eligible” to receive federal funds, according to text of the legislation.

“Attempts to single out Israel for discriminatory boycotts violates the principle of academic freedom guaranteed by the United States,” the bill states.

“This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts,” Roskam said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. “It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea”

“Congress has a responsibility to fight back against these hateful campaigns, which contradict academic freedom and are designed to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel,” Roskam said.

UPDATE: Via Lori Lowenthal Marcus:

Update 2-7-2014: Law Professor Eugene Volokh believes the bill is constitutional, although the punishment of an entire university could be problemantic (h/t Instapundit):

The federal government thus probably has broad power to say “if you want federal funds, you can’t exclude Israeli institutions and scholars from your programs,” just as it can say “if you want federal funds, you can’t discriminate against women in your programs,” or “if you want university funds, you can’t exclude anyone from membership or leadership in your student organization.” Nor does it matter that the government’s interest in preventing sex discrimination may be seen by some as more weighty than the government’s interest in preventing boycotts against Israel. Grove City College didn’t rely on the strength of the government interest — it relied on what it saw as the weakness of the First Amendment claim when it came to restrictions on government funds.

U.S. House Anti Academic Boycott Bill – Roskam