I don’t know what the outcome will be regarding the proposal by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The membership voting ends December 15.
While the proposal took pro-Israel and/or pro-Academic Freedom academics by surprise, it was years in the making by devoted the BDS activists who now run the ASA and some other academic associations.
The vote will not be the end. Pro-Israel and/or pro-Academic Freedom academics and groups will need to assess how to oppose the mob rule that increasingly determines the very thing that should not be subjected to mob rule, academic freedom.
Regardless of outcome, exploring the people behind the boycott movement and the mechanisms they used to push this proposal forward will be an important topic. There are a few other avenues I’m exploring that could have a big impact, but it’s still exploratory.
In the meantime, do note that there are some good people speaking out against academic boycotts, and this academic boycott in particular.
As noted by Jonathan Marks at Commentary:
Simon Bronner of Pennsylvania State University, the editor of the ASA’s Encyclopedia of American Studies, has led the effort to oppose the boycott (his petition is here), and other thoughtful members of the ASA have weighed in. ASA’s leaders have done what they can to shut out critics. ASA’s president Curtis Marez, according to Bronner, flatly refused his request to “provide corrections of misstatements, information on reasons for non-endorsement, and the possibility of extending the deadline for voting.” He did so even though the Council has communicated to members a lengthy justification of its actions before calling the vote.
Opposition is coming from other corners of academia, too. The American Association of University Professors, which criticized the Asian American Studies Association when it passed a boycott resolution, has issued an open letter urging members of the ASA to vote this new resolution down.
Inside Higher Ed further reports:
On Wednesday, eight past presidents of the ASA wrote a letter opposing the boycott as being “antithetical to the mission of free and open inquiry for which a scholarly organization stands” and taking issue with the association’s leaders for refusing to present a range of perspectives on the boycott to their members. “ASA Members were provided only the resolution and a link to a website supporting it. Despite explicit requests, the National Council refused to circulate or post to the ASA’s website alternative perspectives,” the eight past presidents wrote.
You also should read the anti-boycott statement issued today by Henry Richman, Against Academic Boycotts
The American Association of University Professors has opposed academic boycotts as a matter of principle since 2005, when we published a major statement “On Academic Boycotts.” Last week AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum and I signed an “Open Letter to Members of the American Studies Association” reaffirming this opposition and urging ASA members to reject the proposed boycott.
The ASA Council, however, disagrees. In an extraordinarily one-sided FAQ on the ASA website, advocates of the boycott assert that, like the AAUP, the ASA “unequivocally asserts the importance of academic freedom and the necessity for intellectuals to remain free from state interests and interference as a general good for society,” making no mention, of course, that the very organization they cite, the AAUP, has publicly and forcefully opposed as a violation of academic freedom the very boycott they advocate. Then, in language that can only be described as Orwellian, the FAQ contends that “the academic boycott doesn’t violate academic freedom but helps to extend it. Under the current conditions of occupation, the academic freedom of Palestinian academics and students is severely hampered, if not effectively denied.”
I have no sense whether these prominent voices will resonate with the ASA membership.
As we have seen in many posts here and at College Insurrection over the years, what passes for scholarship these days really is just politics.
And the politics on campuses these days is hostile to freedom, academic and otherwise.
(Featured image source: Students Against Israeli Apartheid, York University,)DONATE
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