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Association of American Universities rejects Israel boycott

Association of American Universities rejects Israel boycott

Executive Committee Statement signed by Presidents of UT-Austin, U. Penn, Tulane, Duke, UC-Irvine, U. Kansas, U. Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Michigan State, and Cornell.

The list of universities rejecting and denouncing the anti-Israel boycott resolution of the American Studies Association is growing rapidly.

In a statement signed by its Executive Committee, the Association of American Universities has stated its opposition to the boycott. ASA quickly is becoming a pariah in the academic community.

I just received the following:

William C. Powers, President of The University of Texas at Austin, supports and has signed the following statement by the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities.

The Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Three U.S. scholarly organizations have now expressed support for such a boycott. Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general.

Academic freedom is the freedom of university faculty responsibly to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching, and service, without undue constraint. It is a principle that should not be abridged by political considerations. American colleges and universities, as well as like institutions elsewhere, must stand as the first line of defense against attacks on academic freedom.

Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should not themselves infringe upon academic freedom. Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.

William C. Powers, President, The University of Texas at Austin – Chair
Amy Gutmann, President, University of Pennsylvania – Vice Chair
Scott S. Cowen, President, Tulane University – Past Chair
Richard H. Brodhead, President, Duke University
Michael V. Drake, Chancellor, University of California, Irvine
Bernadette Gray-Little, The University of Kansas
Mark A. Nordenberg, Chancellor, University of Pittsburgh
Morton O. Schapiro, President, Northwestern University
Lou Anna K. Simon, President, Michigan State University
David Skorton, President, Cornell University
Hunter R. Rawlings III, President, Association of American Universities – ex-officio

Other denunciations of the academic boycott of Israel include statements by the Presidents of ASA member Boston University:

I am disappointed and concerned that the American Studies Association, invoking the principle of academic freedom, would vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Research, teaching, and scholarship flourish through robust exchange of ideas, across borders and among institutions in different parts of the world. Universities and their faculties can often transcend even profound political differences. It is ill-advised to make academic institutions the instrument with which to promote a political agenda by attempting to isolate students and scholars. Boston University cannot support this boycott.

And the Chancellor of ASA member UC-San Diego.  The President of Willamette University rejected an academic boycott of Israel and denied knowing why Willamette was listed as an Institutional Member of ASA:

We are glad to have had strong collaborations with academics in Israel in the past, and we will continue to do so in the future. Despite your concerns about American academics “policing” compliance with a boycott, I have never received any request from any faculty member here (or at my previous institutions) asking me to support a boycott of Israel, nor would I be receptive to such a request.

The President of Wesleyan University, which is not an ASA member, wrote in the L.A. Times that the anti-Israel boycott was A repugnant attack on academic freedom:

… the [ASA] boycott is a repugnant attack on academic freedom, declaring academic institutions off-limits because of their national affiliation.

The ASA has not gone on record against the universities in any other country in the world: not against those that enforce laws against homosexuality, not against those that have rejected freedom of speech, not against those that systematically restrict access to higher education by race, religion or gender. No, the ASA listens to civil society only when it speaks against Israel. As its scholarly president declared, “One has to start somewhere.” Not in North Korea, not in Russia or Zimbabwe or China — one has to start with Israel. Really?

The boycott previously had been opposed by a wide range of non-policitized academic groups, including the Association of American University Professors, eight Past Presidents of the ASA, and many others.

Two ASA Institutional Members, Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg dropped their memberships in protest.

Update:  Princeton Pres: “I do not intend to denounce the ASA”


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I was wondering what UT would do about this.

Progress. I would qualify it as positive.

This is rare good news.

I urge you to ask the major Catholic universities about their position on the boycott? Schools such as Notre Dame, Marquette, Univ. of San Francisco, Univ of Santa Clara, Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, Fordham, Gonzaga, Catholic University?

Where do these schools of faith stand with regard to Jewish scholars affiliated with Israeli universities?

Professor – your efforts appear to be producing very good results. Great work.