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Does American Studies Association have guts to boycott Cornell too?

Does American Studies Association have guts to boycott Cornell too?

Perhaps it’s time for a “boycott me too” movement to counter anti-Israel academic boycotts.

Being anti-Israel is the easiest thing to be in academia these days.

An example is the recommendation by the National Council of the American Studies Association for a boycott of Israeli academic organizations. The vote of the membership is pending, with voting closing on December 15.

I detailed yesterday how one ASA member, Professor Claire Potter, came out forcefully and repeatedly against the boycott even though she is a harsh critic of Israel, on the ground that academic freedom and freedom of speech are “not something you give away — for yourself, or on behalf of another nation’s scholars.”

Potter then did just that, changing her mind after BDS supporters attacked her in social media, saying she wanted to give the academic boycott “a chance.”

Where does the boycott stop? ASA carefully tried to narrow the boycott to Israeli academic institutions, although it is hard to see how one can boycott an institution without also boycotting its faculty and researchers.

If ASA is going to be consistent and intellectually honest, it will have to boycott Cornell University, as well.

Cornell has formed a partnership with Israel’s Technion to develop a technology campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City, as Bloomberg News reported in 2011:

Cornell University and Technion- Israel Institute of Technology won a New York City contest to build an engineering campus with a grant of land on Roosevelt Island and $100 million for infrastructure improvements.

The NYCTech Campus is intended to bolster job creation in the city and may generate 600 spinoff companies and $23 billion in economic activity over the next three decades, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference today.

Cornell, based in Ithaca, New York, and Haifa-based Technion beat out six competing bids, including one from Stanford University. Cornell announced an anonymous $350 million gift Dec. 16 to support its bid, hours after Stanford said it was withdrawing from the contest.

“Of all the applications we received, Cornell and Technion’s was the boldest and most ambitious,” Bloomberg said. “In a word, this project will be transformative.”

The massive campus will include the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute. Although the campus will be a decade in the making, the joint venture already is accepting students on a limited basis.

The campus received New York City Council and New York City Planning Board approval last Spring, and groundbreaking is expected next year.

BDS supporters tried to stop Cornell from entering into the joint venture, as we documented almost two years ago:

Technion, home to multiple Nobel prize winners in the sciences, is a prime target of BDS because, like most major U.S. universities, its research has connections to military applications. 

The BDS movement still is trying to stop the project, Stop Technion/Cornell Collaboration!:

USACBI, working with BRICUP and other organizations, is working to build a campaign to stop the recently-announced massive joint project between Cornell University and the Technion, the Israeli technical university, on New York’s Roosevelt Island, a project that will involve over $100 million of public money.

New York activists have recently launched New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT.) Contact NYACT by emailing [email protected].

There are campaigns about Technion at other universities as well, including McGill and Concordia Universities in Montreal, and documents from those campaigns are collected below, and joint action encouraged.

Which leads me back to the ASA boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Regardless of any alleged military involvement, Technion would be covered by the ASA boycott resolution.

To be consistent and intellectually honest, if the ASA boycott resolution passes the membership, must ASA not also boycott the Cornell-Technion joint campus?  And since the joint campus will draw resources, faculty, staff and students from Cornell’s Ithaca campus, wouldn’t the boycott of necessity have to include the greater Cornell University?

Picking on Israel is easy for tenured radicals.  It comes at no professional cost, particularly for organizations and academics not in the sciences.

But taking the boycott to the necessary level of boycotting those who enter into collaboration with Israeli academic institutions to form joint campuses and joint academic projects will be more difficult.  I doubt the ASA has the guts.

Perhaps it’s time also for academics to make the choice for ASA and the other anti-Israel boycotters.  Perhaps it’s time for those who truly stand for academic freedom to demand to be boycotted too. 

I can even conceive of “Boycott Me Too” badges to be worn by those academic institutions and academics who, whether they agree with every Israeli policy or not, stand against the academic boycott of Israel.


(Featured image source: Cornell Tech website, credit Kilograph)


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“Boycott me too” is too passive. Put every academic who signs off on BDS (Bibi Derangement Syndrome) on a list, and start giving them some pain so that they can feel principled in their martyrdom. You say it’s easy to be anti-semetic in academia. Make it not easy.

    Edgehopper in reply to Immolate. | December 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Not so passive or mild as that if the symbol is a blue and yellow Jewish star badge. This seems like an appropriate place to copy the (unfortunately false, but metaphorically true) story of King Christian X of Denmark’s decision to wear the yellow star during the Holocaust. (It never happened, but mainly because Denmark’s government led by King Christian X was so strong in its determination to protect Danish Jews that the Nazis never imposed the badge on Denmark).

Great observation! Great idea!

But the image of the intended NYTech campus makes me wonder if Cornell hasn’t heard about the Global Warming induced rising of sea level. Or is that concept just for the suckers.

These “radicals” had better check all their computing devices and medicines.

I just took one daily pill that has helped me in my fight against anxiety and depression, and it’s made by Teva, an Israeli pharmaceutical company.

Boycott me!

LukeHandCool (who has accumulated shares of stock in Teva over the years)

What does Cornell’s American studies faculty say?
The list of faculty is right here: . Some of these faculty are quite prominent in their fields in history or government. I recognize a few from my days on the Hill (at Cornell), but some seem relatively obscure. I wonder if the department or its faculty is taking a stand. If Cornell faculty (or faculty at any school) supports this, donors should know.

I just took my own advice and emailed the chair of the Cornell American studies department, Sabine Haenni. Will write an updating comment if I receive a response.

Think I’ll try this with my other alma mater as well.

I think the entire notion of an “academic boycott” is intellectually bankrupt in concept and morally corrupt in its application by the BDS “movement.”

The entire notion of academia has always been to encourage the free exchange of ideas, and isolating a single country runs completely counter to this concept. Further, if Israel’s universities should be boycotted for their governments’ sins, then what about the rest of the world?

Where is the academic boycott of the rapacious Russia? China? Saudi Arabia? Iran? Japan? Germany?

And, umm, if we include all those countries, we have to include the USA.

If you apply the BDS movement’s claimed standards even-handledly, you wind up with a requirement that they boycott …. themselves.

    LukeHandCool in reply to Valerie. | December 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    You took quite a few words right out of my mouth, Valerie.

    Where are the boycotts of Chinese and Indian, etc., scholars?

    Of the many conflicts in this world, the Israelis can’t be said to be one side which refuses to ever sit down and negotiate.

    And most, if not all of these usual academia suspects surely see America as a negative force in this world.

    This is anti-Semitism pure and simple. Let’s call it what it is. I’m not Jewish, but I can’t see it as anything else. This goes beyond criticizing Israel. This is punishing Israel via Israeli individuals, in this case Israeli scholars, who probably as a group hold a wide range of opinions on the conflict.

    This is anti-Semitism cloaked in concern for the Palestinians.

    Their action will make it easier for a domino effect of other academic associations to follow suit as latecomer academic associations will be encouraged by any lack of serious blowback.

    A threshold will be reached whereby it becomes so common that any academic association doing the same in the future won’t elicit half a shrug and generations of students will be influenced … we’ve seen this film before.

    When PC nonsense started a couple of decades ago, who would’ve thought it could ever become so pervasive? It was just too laughable. Now it’s an entrenched part of the landscape. Everyday is replete with insane stories.

    These people need to be called out and this needs to be nipped in the bud.

    Criticize Israel in your own private time all you want, but don’t put the imprimatur of academic integrity on this nonsense.

    And where is any sense of prioritization? With all the conflicts in the world, this is the one you choose first?

    If you professors have so much free time on your hands and sincerely want to help, why don’t you organize symposiums bringing Israeli and Palestinian scholars together to discuss and debate?

    Isn’t that the civil thing to do? Isn’t that the scholarly thing to do?

    The problem these days isn’t just that common sense is uncommon; it’s that it’s completely absent in many areas of higher education.

    LHC (whose son was reading Professor J’s post over Luke’s shoulder this morning, and then on the drive to school, he wanted to know Luke’s take on the matter. Luke got worked up in the car talking about it … at which point his daughter in the backseat moaned, “If you guys are going to talk about politics, can you turn my music on?” Girls.)

1. Some time ago I came across some Cornell blurbs on the new campus. They did not mention Israel or the Technion. The Cornell link at the bottom of the post does not mention Israel or the Technion. What seems to be the Cornell/NYC front page does not mention Israel or the Technion.

So to speak, “It’s unavoidable to hire Jews if they’re exceptional enough, but we keep them out of sight.”

2. From the link at the bottom of the post:

This needs to be different from nearly every campus you’ve ever visited. There is no gate, no threshold, separating it from the surrounding city. The goal is to create an open and inviting environment that beckons you inwards and encourages interactivity.

Let’s see how this “open and inviting…interactivity” works out after de Blasio brings “bold progressive change” to policing in NYC.

Very few of these academics pushing boycotts come from the “hard” sciences and curricula, and those that do are usually just going along to keep a low profile. These nuts come from humanities, including all the half-serious “disciplines” which have been invented over the last few decades to give tenure to leftist activists with no particular qualifications.

It’s another reason we need to get the federal government OUT of education. Forced to rely upon market forces and their own resources, fewer institutions will find room for the pet lefty departments and “scholars” who drive this sort of nonsense.

It would be nice to email all these concerned ASA professors and invite them to come here and discuss and debate with the common-folk commenters here at LI.

Professors love to talk and talk and discuss and debate, right?

Come on over and pull up a seat at the LI cracker barrel … we’re by and large polite and courteous to those with opposing viewpoints.

Surely you do have the courage of your convictions, right?

Some might say there are some discomforting parallels between tenure and royalty … that university professors are often “out of touch.”

But I’m sure you’d love to rub elbows with some concerned, non-academia folk.

We won’t bite. And we’re quite capable of logical thought.

Please RSVP.

[…] the same vein Prof. Jacobson recommends, tongue-in-cheek, that it might be time to start a “boycott me” movement – and that they ought to boycott Cornell University itself – in order to highlight the […]

I asked the chair of the American studies department at Cornell (happens to be my alma mater) about the boycott vote. She kindly replied and wrote the following:

“The American Studies Program at Cornell, as program, has not taken a position, and I don’t think it should. Some of our faculty will be members of ASA (and as such are free to vote as they want to), while others will not be members. In other words I take it to be an ASA issue that is quite separate from our program.”

On the one hand, I am very relieved they don’t actively support it. I also understand that to maintain their illusion of academic freedom they can’t tell or suggest that faculty oppose it (however, it is not an academic issue). Yet, I am disturbed that this is apparently the PC response. The acceptable response should be that however individual professors chose to vote, there is no place for such a boycott, the boycott is based on falsehoods, and the boycott is an act of bigotry.