Hillel received a statement from PrezBo two days ago stating his opposition to the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions. PrezBo joins the Presidents of Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Cornell, and NYU in opposing the boycott. The boycott was announced by the ASA on December 4th on account of what its resolution calls “the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements.”
I have made my opposition to academic boycotts of Israel emphatically clear over the years, most prominently in my 2007 letter that was signed by some 400 of my fellow college and university presidents speaking out against the British University and College Union’s boycott of Israeli scholars and universities. I stand by that statement today when considering the recent vote by the American Studies Association for just such a boycott. To be sure, it is entirely appropriate for our campuses to provide a forum for discussion and debate about the policies of any government, including our own. But the ASA’s vote runs counter to this essential academic and political freedom and, taken to its logical conclusion, would necessarily result in boycotts of fellow scholars and peer institutions from many nations around the world. I reject the ASA’s position which would compromise an essential value of universities in an increasingly global society-and we look forward to continuing to Columbia’s long history of engagement with our peers from Israel.
Update 10:19 EST:
DSpar, not to be outdone, issued the following statement today:
As President of Barnard, I stand with the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities in my strong opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. All scholars have the right to speak out against issues or policies with which they disagree, but academic boycotts pose a threat to the intellectual exchange and open debate that sit at the very core of our educational mission. I would urge fellow scholars and their affiliated academic associations to seek alternative forms of protest that do not jeopardize academia’s crucial role as a marketplace for independent thinking and collaborative dialogue.
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