University of California chiefs oppose any BDS action by faculty
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University of California chiefs oppose any BDS action by faculty

Chancellors issue statement saying any potential boycott of Israel ‘poses a direct and serious threat to academic freedom’

The University of California, Santa Barbara (Photo credit: CC-BY-SA Coolcaesar/Wikimedia Commons)
The University of California, Santa Barbara (Photo credit: CC-BY-SA Coolcaesar/Wikimedia Commons)

Leaders of the University of California have issued a joint statement opposing any potential action by faculty in support of boycotting Israel.

Their comments come after several incidents in the US of teachers acting against Israel and in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

All 10 chancellors said they “reaffirm” their “long-standing opposition to an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholars.

“Our commitment to continued engagement and partnership with Israeli, as well as Palestinian colleagues, colleges, and universities is unwavering,” they said.

The chancellors added that a boycott “poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East.”

The statement came in response to an appeal by 101 organizations, most of them Jewish, for universities to speak out against boycott efforts, titled: “University Leaders Statement Against the Implementation of an Academic Boycott of Israel.”

UC leadership is the first to sign onto the initiative.

The letter organized by the AMCHA initiative, an anti-Semitism campus monitor, was sent earlier this month to 250 US college presidents and chancellors whose institutions have previously said they reject boycotts of the Jewish state.

They want the leaders to reaffirm their opposition in light of recent instances in which faculty members objected to study abroad programs in Israel.

In November the faculty at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, voted to suspend the school’s study abroad program at Haifa University. This fall, two instructors at the University of Michigan refused to write recommendation letters for students who wished to study in Israel. One of them, American Studies Professor John Cheney-Lippold, was deprived of a merit raise and sabbatical due to his decision.

JTA contributed to this report.

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