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NY State Senate passes anti-academic boycott bill

NY State Senate passes anti-academic boycott bill

American Studies Association academic boycott chickens are coming home to roost.

We previously have mentioned that the Speaker of the NY State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, is backing an Assembly bill barring use of state funds to support participation in organizations — such as the American Studies Association — that conduct academic boycotts, and cutting off state funding for higher education institutions that violate the prohibition. Silver’s backing virtually guarantees it will pass the Assembly.

Now the NY State Senate has passed a similar, but not identical, bill, as reported by Capitol Confidential:

The state Senate by an overwhelming majority voted for a bill introduced by Sen. Jeff Klein that would prohibit any public or private college or university from using state funds to support through funding any academic entity “if that academic entity has undertaken an official action boycotting certain countries or their higher education institutions.”

The bill is in reaction to the American Studies Association’s controversial boycott of Israel over that nation’s treatment of Palestinians. While almost entirely symbolic, the ASA’s action is viewed by Israel’s supporters as a potential camel’s nose under the tent (if you can say that about a controversy involving the Middle East) for broader divestment efforts.

Klein amended his original bill, which would have used the bazooka-vs.-fly approach of denying all state funds to any school that supported such an organization.

The revised bill includes several carveouts:

The provisions of this section shall not apply to any college:
(a) when such college is located in a country that is determined by the United States secretary of state to be a state sponsor of terrorism;
(b) when such boycott is connected with a labor dispute; or
(c) when such boycott is for the purpose of protesting unlawful discriminatory practices as determined by the laws, rules or regulations of this state.

I presume the next step is for the Assembly and Senate bills to go to some sort of conference to hash out the details into a single bill.  Given the vote in the Senate and Silver’s backing in the General Assembly, it looks likely that there will be legislation addressing the academic boycott.

They should take care in drafting, as a non-profit legal group supporting the BDS movement is threatening a challenge, as reported by the anti-Israel Mondoweiss website.

I have a request in to Gov. Cuomo’s office for his position, but have not heard back yet.

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Comments

The legislation is useful as an indicator that some in government still have a spine.

But more useful is pushback from academics (myself included). That’s the only way our fellow academics will get the message.

Seems as if Klein’s original bill would have been preferable. Even if this is passed, any college or university can simply play a shell game with state money, putting it into one bucket and paying the ASA dues from another.

All of these educational institutions should be leaving the ASA, not merely releasing statements condeming the boycott.

Counterstriker | January 31, 2014 at 3:56 pm

You make the key point that care really needs to be taken in drafting. Unfortunately, as the bill stands, section 2.2 presents an alarmingly easy avenue for BDS-affiliated legal groups to attack.

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