Dozens of US universities join rejection of academic boycott

Dozens of US universities join rejection of academic boycott

55 institutes respond to call to condemn sanctions; head of 1,800-member strong academic group calls boycott 'misguided'

A dormitory at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons)
A dormitory at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons)

At least 55 American universities and colleges have rejected the American Studies Association membership vote in favor of an academic boycott of Israel.

The universities and colleges have in recent days publicly rejected the call for a boycott of Israeli universities, according to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“This remarkable response is a clear declaration that American academia will not be party to the efforts to promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,” Robert G. Sugarman, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference said in a statement issued Dec. 26.

On Monday, the head of the American Council on Education added its voice, with president Molly Corbett Broad calling the ASA boycott and others “misguided” and damaging to academic freedom.

Corbett called on those of ACE’s 1,800 member institutions who support sanctions to reconsider their actions.

“Many of these same scholars would decry efforts by trustees, governors or state legislators to infringe on faculty teaching and research activities at their own institutions, and yet these boycotts involve more sweeping repercussions, impeding global academic relationships and the constructive exchange of ideas among countries and cultures,” she said.

The Conference had written to each of the institutional members of the ASA outlining why the boycott call was an unjustifiable and blatantly discriminatory act. “The response is very encouraging and we are grateful that so many took the time during a holiday week to respond. We continue to urge the rest of the members to speak out against the action and to disassociate from supporting the ASA,” the leaders said.

The ASA counts 5,000 members along with 2,200 institutional affiliates, according to its website.

Two-thirds of the 1,252 ASA members who voted approved the boycott, according to an ASA announcement on December 16, a day after the deadline for on-line voting. At the time of the vote, there were 3,853 eligible voters, meaning one third of the ASA membership participated.

Four universities withdrew their membership in the wake of the vote: Brandeis University, Indiana University, Kenyon College and Penn State Harrisburg.

Earlier this year, the Association for Asian American Studies announced it would mount an academic boycott of Israel. On December 15, the Native American Studies Association urged its members to boycott Israeli educational institutions. The Modern Language Association next month will hold a discussion on an academic boycott of Israel.

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