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American Studies Association Tag

The President of Middlebury College issued one of the most stinging rebukes to the American Studies Association anti-Israel academic boycott: “the vote is a sad reflection of an extreme and hateful ideology of some members of the academy …. I urge others in the academic community to condemn the ASA boycott and reaffirm their support for academic freedom.” Now the American Studies Program at Middlebury College has followed suit by issuing an Open Letter to ASA's President and Executive Committee. (H/t Inside Higher Ed) The Middlebury professors made one of the points I made in the challenge to ASA's tax-exempt status, that the ASA mission as expressed in its Constitution does not include the anti-Isrel political activism which now dominates ASA.  The Open Letter reads, in part (emphasis added):
Below is an open letter to the President and Executive Committee of the American Studies Association. Though written by faculty at Middlebury College, we hope that many other institutional members of the ASA, American Studies programs, individual members, and present and former officers of the organization will support the letter’s call for discussion of the ASA’s mission statement.... To the President and Executive Committee of the American Studies Association: .... The American Studies Program at Middlebury does not support, and will not honor, the American Studies Association’s resolution to boycott academic institutions in Israel.... Beyond our concerns about the merits of academic boycotts in general (and this one in particular), we are concerned that the ASA resolution is inconsistent with the stated mission of the organization. The ASA seems to be neglecting, or at the very least interpreting in a particularly tendentious way, the language of its own constitution. Effectively a mission statement, Article I, Section 2 of the ASA constitution reads:
Sec. 2. The object of the association shall be the promotion of the study of American culture through the encouragement of research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions in this country and abroad devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about American culture in all its diversity and complexity.

George Mason University apparently has an active anti-Israel group.  It has proclaimed the achievement of boycotting Israeli hummus, and staged a walkout on a commencement speaker with close ties to Israel. The propaganda-named Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) now is playing the race card against GMU's President, who tweeted his opposition to the academic boycott of Israel: There's no racism in those tweets. Except that the SAIA say that the reference to "blowing up" relationships is a racist referral to all Palestinians as bombers, GMU President Cabrera’s Racist Tweet Opposing Academic Boycott:
His line that “Universities exist to build bridges of understanding, not to blow them up” insinuates that being in solidarity with Palestinians is on par with terrorism. Not only is this metaphor racist and distasteful, but it was also irresponsible. Supporters of the academic boycott are endangered when their activity is distorted through fear mongering. Cabrera’s use of damaging language is a blatant response to the support GMU SAIA received from faculty as a result of the NO HONOR IN APARTHEID campaign. His response is only a small part of the national “McCarthyite” campaign to destroy the positive learning environments student organizations have created regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on campuses. While academic integrity is often cited as a value of the administration, Cabrera’s rhetoric serves to limit discussion, exploration, and academic freedom around critical issues. While President Cabrera’s support for Israeli apartheid is no secret, his allegiance, to the best of our knowledge, is linked to position and profits.
Why does the anti-Israel group assume that referring to blowing up relations among universities is a reference to Palestinians blowing themselves up in cafes, buses, pizza shops and Passover Sedars?

Most universities which were listed as Institutional Members of the American Studies Association have left it up to particular departments which took out the membership to decide whether to continue. Of the 83 Institutional Members listed by ASA, at least 11 deny being members, as detailed...

When the National Council of the American Studies Association endorsed the academic boycott of Israel in early December, and put the boycott Resolution to a quick membership vote, I wondered how the ASA National Council could do such a thing not just on the merits, but because the boycott put ASA's tax-exempt status at risk. I stated my intention of filing a challenge to that tax-exempt status should the Resolution pass and the academic boycott go into effect. The ASA membership approved the boycott Resolution with less than a quarter of the total membership voting for it (there was such low turnout, that was enough). The reaction to ASA's boycott has been overwhelmingly negative.  At least 125 universities and leading academic organizations have spoken out against the boycott and issued strong statements as to the damage to higher education such boycotts inflict. Earlier today my attorneys filed with the IRS a whistleblower complaint challenging ASA's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status in light of the academic boycott. The Complaint without Exhibits is embedded below. The Complaint with Exhibits is available here. Here is the Introduction, which summarizes the reasons why ASA no longer is organized and operating exclusively in accordance with its educational exempt purpose, and no longer is entitled to its 501(c)(3) status under the IRS Code and Regulations.

Several dozen universities have issued rejections of the academic boycott of Israel passed by the American Studies Association, many with forceful statements. Among the most forceful was Trinity College in Connecticut, whose President and Dean of Faculty issued a stinging rebuke in a letter to the ASA President (emphasis added):
To The Immediate Attention of the President of the American Studies Association: Our Dean of the Faculty, Thomas Mitzel, and I wish to go on record renouncing the boycott of Israel on the part of the ASA. Trinity once years back was an institutional member (we were then advertising for an open position), and apparently some members of our faculty are individual members. Were we still an institutional member, we would not be any longer after the misguided and unprincipled announcement of the boycott of the only democracy in the Middle East. The Dean and I oppose academic boycotts in general because they can so easily encroach upon academic freedom. In this strange case, why the ASA would propose an academic boycott of Israel and not, for example, of Syria, the Sudan, North Korea, China, Iran, Iraq, or Russia escapes rational thought. Trinity has participated in the Rescue Scholar program since its inception; we have welcomed scholars from some of the most repressive countries on the planet, and it is inconceivable to us that we would ever be welcoming a Rescue Scholar fleeing Israel for political reasons. As President of the ASA, you have tarnished a once distinguished association.

The President of Trinity College in Connecticut is one of over 50 University Presidents who have issued a very strong statement rejecting the academic boycott of Israel. The Trinity statement consisted of a letter to the President of the American Studies Association, and reads (emphasis added): To The Immediate Attention...

Setting off an academic boycott is something like going nuclear. Once you set it off, it's hard to know where the damage to academia stops. For every action there is a reaction. That is why so many University Presidents so quickly have rejected the American Studies Association anti-Israel academic boycott. If left in place, academic BDS can and will set off a daisy chain of retaliation and demands for counter-BDS. The people behind the ASA anti-Israel academic boycott went nuclear, with great joy and high-fiving. Now there is a reaction and the boycotters are whining that the fierce pushback violates their academic freedom, and they are begging their friends for help. This same group also has threatened to sue fellow professors and administrators who criticize them (in their words "intimidate"), and erroneously characterized vigorous disagreement as harassment. These folks, who easily make false and inflammatory statements against Israel and seek to damage Israeli educational institutions and faculty, seem to feel they are immune from strenuous criticism. They haven't received half of what they have dished out to Israeli academia.  So far, no one has done unto the ASA boycotters what the ASA boycotters did unto Israeli academics. How would these anti-Israel academic boycotters feel if they were subject to boycott, divestment and sanction? We know how they would react, considering how they cannot even stand criticism. We also have an example from Australia where Prof. Jake Lynch, who very publicly would not help an Israeli researcher with a grant application as part of BDS now is complaining when his own grant application possibly (speculatively) was denied by someone who opposed BDS. Jake Lynch is a well-known BDSer:

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind has issued the following press release:
December 24, 2013 HIKIND CALLS ON AG SCHNEIDERMAN TO ADDRESS ASA’S ILLEGAL BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL DERSHOWITZ JOINS HIKIND IN CONDEMNING ‘BIGOTED BOYCOTT’ WHICH VIOLATES NEW YORK STATE HUMAN RIGHTS LAW Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) called upon New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today to address a violation of New York State’s Human Rights Law by the American Studies Association (ASA). On December 16, the ASA—an association of American professors with nearly 5,000 members—voted to endorse an academic boycott of Israeli colleges and universities, calling on American schools and academic groups to ban collaboration with Israeli institutions. Renowned legal expert Professor Alan M. Dershowitz joined Hikind in condemning the ASA’s bigoted boycott. “This action by the ASA is a flagrant violation of New York State’s Human Rights Law,”said Assemblyman Hikind in a letter to Schneiderman, citing section Executive Law Article 15, 296.13, which addresses unlawful discriminatory practices. “This flagrant act of discrimination on the part of the ASA singles out only one of the 192 member nations of the United Nations. It seems clear that it does so not because of Israel’s U.N.-condemned disputes with its geographical neighbors, as such disputes are common. Moreover, Curtis Marez, the group’s president and an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, admitted to the New York Timesthat ‘many nations, including Israel’s neighbors, are generally judged to have human rights records that are worse than Israel’s.’ Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens, including children, was condemned by all.

The List of Universities rejecting academic boycott of Israel is growing rapidly.  These two announcements are significant because they involve withdrawals of Institutional Membership, not just condemnation.  This makes four universities (Penn State Harrisburg, Brandeis, Kenyon, Indiana) who are withdrawing membership, plus several others (Willamette, Hamilton,...

The universities and colleges below are confirmed to reject the academic boycott of Israel passed by the American Studies Association. This list is based on positions expressed by the Presidents of such Universities or others in a position to state a university's position (e.g., communications staff). We are...

Note: This post originally was to list just a few statements from university Presidents, but as it has expanded it now will be the repository to gather the statements as a source for others. The title -- but not the url -- has been changed as has some of the text. Check our other post for the complete list: List of Universities rejecting academic boycott of Israel The list of Universities condemning the academic boycott of Israel passed by the American Studies Association and two smaller academic groups is growing.  New announcements are being made daily, although I expect a lull in new announcements as most universities are closed until after New Year's Day. Here are some of the announcements and email statements: Indiana University (additional statement below)
.... As you may know, President McRobbie has publicly voiced his opposition to any boycott of Israeli institutions. The AAU and the AAUP have both voted to oppose any such boycotts and we fully support both actions. We are investigating the nature of the IUs institutional membership in the ASA and will continue to monitor this situation closely.... Kelly A. Kish, Ph.D. Deputy Chief of Staff Office of the President Indiana University
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University is deeply troubled and dismayed that the American Studies Association (ASA) , among others, has engaged in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions We believe strongly that a boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is not only one of our university’s fundamental principles but one of American higher education in general. This boycott clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We have made this position clear to the ASA.... Washington University is a member of the Association of American Universities which issued a statement today. I completely endorse their statement.... Mark S. Wrighton, Ph.D. Chancellor and Professor of Chemistry