Sarah Lawrence joins schools against ASA boycott

College president Karen Lawrence, during dean’s visit visit to Israel, releases statement condemning move

Debra writes for the JTA, and is a former features writer for The Times of Israel.

Sarah Lawrence College. (photo credit:Wikimedia)
Sarah Lawrence College. (photo credit:Wikimedia)

Days after its dean arrived in Israel as part of a delegation of university provosts, Sarah Lawrence College has spoken out publicly against the American Studies Association boycott of Israel.

University president Karen Lawrence, in a statement released to The Times of Israel on Wednesday, wrote, “I oppose this boycott. Academic boycotts have the effect of stifling dialogue vital to academic freedom; indeed, Israeli academics themselves are crucial voices in debating the policies of their government. To declare their institutions barred from academic exchange unfairly curtails their academic freedom and limits the possibilities for dialogue to contribute to understanding, affect policy, and even change minds.”

Sarah Lawrence College, a prestigious private liberal arts college in New York State, is the final university represented among the delegates to openly condemn the ASA boycott, which passed in early December and has since been the subject of a tidal wave of criticism. Her statement now means that all of the university provosts, who are part of a delegation sponsored by Project Interchange, an education project of the AJC, hail from universities who have publicly rejected the boycott.

In addition to Sarah Lawrence, the provosts — visiting Israel January 5-11 in a trip sponsored by Project Interchange — are from Smith College, Catholic University, Bard College, Dominican University of California, the University of South Florida, the University of Louisville, and Brown University.

Karen Lawrence, president of Sarah Lawrence College. (photo credit: courtesy)
Karen Lawrence, president of Sarah Lawrence College. (photo credit: courtesy)

Michele Dominy, dean of Bard College, points out that Bard has even gone a step further and is now among the handful of American educational institutions who have completely severed ties with the ASA. Bard, she says, is a place that seeks dialogue on the Middle East, and she points out that the college has an exchange program with the Palestinian Al-Quds University and that its president, Leon Botstein, is a conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.

“At Bard we have very strong programs in Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and human rights,” she says. “So given my role as the chief academic officer [this trip] seemed like a wonderful opportunity to spend some time here.”

During their time in Israel, the delegates will visit several academic sites including Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, explore some of the country’s most ground-breaking research centers and meet with high-ranking political officials. They will also travel to Ramallah and meet with Palestinian leaders.

Like the college students they work with back home, they even had reading to do to prepare for their trip. Among the homework assigned to them before arriving in Israel was Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s “Start-Up Nation.”

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