January 01, 2014

Against Israel Boycott: Ninety-Nine University Presidents So Far

Ninety-nine university presidents have come out against academic boycott of Israel and the number is growing every day. This is remarkable.

Perhaps, the small number (three) and small size of the professional organizations endorsing boycott, along with the enormous media coverage given to the recent boycott vote by the Association of American Studies, has prompted university administrators to get out in front of the issue before more divisive academic calls for boycott occur. Perhaps a real concern for academic freedom and fairness prompting major university presidents to speak out encourages the rest to join in.  Included so far are the University of California, Davis, San Diego, Irvine, and Berkeley, the City University of New York, Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, Princeton, MIT and a long list of other schools; the list is impressive.

Will this impact the amount of attention given to singling out Israel, among all the countries of the world, for condemnation by professors?  Or will some feel emboldened to "speak truth to power" across the faculty/administration divide?

Encouraging, however, is that the largest professional organization of faculty: the American Association of University Professors, which took a position condemning academic boycotts in 2005, issued a new statement specifically addressed to the ASA opposing boycotts of Israel. (Is any other country boycotted by academics?)

Whatever happens next, the groundswell of response against boycott from university leaders across the US speaks loudly and reasonably for the university as a center for the "free exchange of ideas."  Boycotts accomplish only the shutting down of any possible discussion.

Now, if the media will give as much space to the many against, as they do to the few for boycott, we'll really be getting somewhere.

UPDATE -- More than 200 University presidents now have opposed the boycott.

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