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Sunday, December 29, 2013

University Statements Against ASA Resolution

Hat tip Legal Insurrection and JJ Surbeck (T.E.A.M. San Diego)


As the avalanche of condemnations of the American Studies Association resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel pours in, Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection has done a great job of compiling all the universities as well as their official statements. In addition, my friend and colleague, JJ Surbeck, head of T>E>A>M> (Training and Education About the Middle East) chapter in San Diego has made up excerpts with  a grade assigned as to the strength or weaknesses of the statement. Of particular note are the comments of UC San Diego home of the president of ASA, Professor Curtis Marez, and those of UC Irvine (where I teach part-time), which includes a salute to the Olive Tree Initiative, which Surbeck describes, accurately in my view, as a front for pushing the Palestinian narrative.
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The American Studies Association idiotic vote to boycott Israeli academia has triggered an unprecedented and probably unexpected nationwide backlash. Statements condemning their vote (and the ASA itself, deservedly so) are pouring in. Keeping track of the flood of protests is no easy task. 

Professor William A. Jacobson from Cornell Law School is doing a fantastic job of listing all the colleges rejecting one way or another the ASA anti-Israel boycott snafu. His blog is worth visiting (legalinsurrection.com). There he lists the official declarations from all the colleges that have declared so far their rejection of the ASA boycott resolution (the full list is here: http://tinyurl.com/nytvj85). The original text of each rejection can be found here:http://tinyurl.com/mf3fl53 (and keep in mind that more are added every day). In a related post (http://tinyurl.com/muxh7y7), Prof. Jacobson also lists all the colleges that still have a membership in the ASA (83 universities), so there is still room for plenty more denunciations. 

But not all statements are equal. Some are strong and leave no room for ambiguity, while others are so weak one can’t help question the sincerity of their authors. What is interesting here for us in San Diego is that UCSD is the only campus of the UC family with a membership in the ASA, which the dean has so far not bothered to denounce by name, let alone move away from. Overall, the UCSD statement compares very poorly when examined side by side with most of the others. 

Given how tedious it can be to read through all these official statements, I have extracted the key sentences in each, making it easier to go through. The key elements to look for in each statement is a clear identification of the ASA and of Israel by name, preferably with a mention of the fact that the college concerned opposes or rejects the ASA resolution. My comments are in parentheses after each one, starting with the Californians. All the others listed (so far) are in alphabetical order below.
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University of California System (from UC President Janet Napolitano): "An academic boycott goes against the spirit of the University of California, which has long championed open dialogue and collaboration with international scholars.”
(Strength of the statement: very weak. Neither the ASA nor Israel are identified and named. This type of mealymouthed general statement sends the wrong message.)

University of Caifornia Berkeley“A recent decision by the American Studies Association, ASA, to impose an academic boycott on Israel is a regrettable step that subverts academic freedom…  UC Berkeley fully supports the position taken by the Association of American Universities, AAU, against this academic boycott.”
(Strength of the statement: good. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned, although referring to the ASA resolution as merely regrettable is indeed very regrettable.)

University of California San Diego"We affirm the right of the faculty to advance their scholarship and research through open dialogue with academic colleagues in all countries. UC San Diego faculty collaborations draw on richly diverse ideas and views around the globe, including in the Middle East. Excluding scholars limits discussion and conflicts with the University of California’s highest aspirations."
(Strength of the statement: embarrassingly weak. Neither the ASA nor Israel are identified by name. Like Janet Napolitano’s statement for the UC System, it is wishy-washy and shows an shameful lack of spine. A new version, inspired from some of the stronger ones listed below, would be welcome to restore UCSD’s credibility).

University of California Irvine“… Members of the American Studies Association recently approved a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli higher-education institutions. …  we believe the ASA resolution interferes with academic freedom. We stand behind the position recently announced by the Association of American Universities (http://www.aau.edu/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=14859)… UC Irvine has … established bonds with students in Israel and Palestine through the Olive Tree Initiative."
(Strength of the statement: weak and ambiguous. To merely say that the ASA resolution “interferes with academic freedom” is stating the obvious, not rejecting it. Then referring to another group’s statement rather than stating their own is suspicious at best (why not say it directly, even if it is a mere repetition?). And finally to mention the Olive Tree Initiative as proof of their bona fide shows either their bad faith or their cluelessness since said group is a known front pushing the Palestinian narrative.)

University of Southern California“… Recently, USC was erroneously identified as an institutional member of the American Studies Association, an organization that calls for academic boycott of Israel. We confirmed with that organization that we are not currently a member and have requested they immediately remove any reference to the University of Southern California as an institutional member of that association…. USC supports the statement of the Association of American Universities that strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.”
(Strength of the statement: good. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned, although it could have been stated more simply and directly.)



American University (D.C.)"American University joins other universities and colleges opposing the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions."
(Strength of the statement: very good. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly identified and the boycott strongly rejected.)

Boston University“… disappointed and concerned that the American Studies Association, invoking the principle of academic freedom, would vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions. … It is ill-advised to make academic institutions the instrument with which to promote a political agenda by attempting to isolate students and scholars. Boston University cannot support this boycott.”
(Strength of the statement: goodBoth the ASA and Israeli academic institutions are clearly mentioned, but to merely say that BU “cannot support this boycott” is odd: are there any other boycotts that whey would support, thus contradicting the very statement they made regarding this one?)

Bowdoin College: "Bowdoin College does not maintain an institutional membership with the American Studies Association, but I disagree with and reject the organization’s recently announced boycott of Israeli academic institutions.”
(Strength of the statement: very goodBoth the ASA and Israeli academic institutions are clearly mentioned and the boycott “rejected".)

Brown University“Brown University does not support academic boycotts against Israel or any other country.”
(Strength of the statement: not great. The ASA is not mentioned, only that BU does not support “boycott against Israel”.)

Cornell University: "From the university’s inception nearly 150 years ago… Cornell and members of its faculty have had many working relationships and formal agreements with academic institutions around the world."  
(Strength of the statement: very weak. This generic bla-bla neither identifies the ASA as the offender nor Israel as the unfairly targeted victim. Shame on Cornell.)

Dickinson College"…. Dickinson continues to strongly oppose all academic boycotts, and we remain committed to working with Israeli institutions of higher education, including our partner programs at Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University. The ASA boycott silences the global dialogue in which Dickinson so actively engages." 
(Strength of the statement: very goodBoth the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned and there is no room for ambiguity.)

Florida International University“… The resolution of the ASA would impose restrictions on the academic freedom of Israeli scholars and of scholars from FIU and elsewhere who interact with them. Such restrictions are antithetical to the freedom of inquiry identified by our Board as essential to an engaged university seeking solutions to global problems….. We support research and scholarly dialogue among all scholars including full participation of Palestinian as well as Israeli academics."
(Strength of the statement: just OK. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned, but there is no clear rejection of the ASA boycott.)

George Washington University: …. The university has multiple academic, research and programmatic relationships with Israeli institutions and plans to continue these relationships as well as explore new ones. 
(Strength of the statement: not great. The ASA is not mentioned, only “Israeli institutions” are, and there is no rejection of the boycott.)

Hamilton College"Hamilton College is not a member of the ASA and we do not support the boycott.”
(Strength of the statement: OK. Brief and to the point, but it would have helped to mention Israel).

Harvard University"The recent resolution of the ASA proposing to boycott Israeli universities represents a direct threat to these ideals, ideals which universities and scholarly associations should be dedicated to defend."
(Strength of the statement: OK. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned. A clear rejection of the boycott is missing, though.)

Haverford College"Although Haverford College is not an institutional member of the American Studies Association, we write to express our opposition to their proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions...”
(Strength of the statement: excellent. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned and the boycott rejected.)

Indiana University: “Indiana University joins other leading research universities in condemning in the strongest possible terms the boycott of institutions of higher education in Israel as proposed by the American Studies Association and other organizations…. Indiana University will contact the ASA immediately to withdraw as an institutional member. We urge the leadership of the ASA and other associations supporting the boycott to rescind this dangerous and ill-conceived action as a matter of urgency.”
(Strength of the statement: perfect. All the elements of the ideal statement are here. Kudos to IU.)

Johns Hopkins: "The American Studies Association voted recently to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Two other organizations of scholars have announced similar boycotts. …  We, therefore, reject the ASA’s efforts to impose a boycott on institutions of higher education in Israel or any other nation.”
(Strength of the statement: very good. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned, twice. And rejection of the boycott is clearly spelled out.)

Kenyon College: “… I reject the notion of a boycott of academic institutions as a geopolitical tool. I concur with the decision of our American Studies program to withdraw as an institutional member of the ASA.”
(Strength of the statement: not great. Only the ASA is mentioned. Israel is not.)

Lehigh University: "Lehigh University strongly opposes the American Studies Association’s (ASA) boycott of Israeli academic institutions… 
(Strength of the statement: very good. Clear and to the point, although the full text is much more verbose.)

Middlebury College: "Last week the American Studies Association (ASA) announced that a majority of its members voted in favor of a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Middlebury College unequivocally opposes that resolution. ... In addition, the singling out of Israel for this action is astounding given the rationale for the resolution.”
(Strength of the statement: excellent, possibly the best. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly identified and the boycott strongly rejected.)

New York UniversityTo the Executive Committee of the American Studies Association: We write on behalf of New York University to express our disappointment, disagreement, and opposition to the boycott advocated by your organization of Israeli academics and academic institutions. 
(Strength of the statement: very good. Couldn’t be more clear. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned.)

Northwestern University: "... the American Studies Association approved a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli higher education institutions. …. Northwestern University disagrees strongly with the boycott vote of the ASA. Northwestern for years has had highly successful and valued joint degree programs and extensive partnerships with Israeli institutions and scholars."
(Strength of the statement: very good. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned.)

Ohio State University:  "We join with the Association of American Universities and others in strongly opposing any boycott of Israeli higher education.”
(Strength of the statement: good, but weakened by the fact that the ASA is not mentioned at all.)

Purdue University: "Purdue University President ... issued a statement … about the proposed boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education:… This is as clear a violation of academic freedom as one can imagine… We (Purdue) do not appear to have any institutional relationship with the American Studies Association, but are checking to see whether any of our departments do.
(Strength of the statement: weak. The ASA is mentioned as an aside and Israel is not at all. Convoluted and confusing.)

Rutgers University: "Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, joins peer institutions — including fellow members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) — in rejecting the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education.
(Strength of the statement: very good. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned and the boycott clearly rejected.)

Smith College“…. The college rejects the American Studies Association’s proposed boycott of Israeli universities and will continue to support our students and faculty in pursuing opportunities in Israel and with their Israeli counterparts.”
(Strength of the statement: excellent. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned, and so is SC’s rejection of the boycott.)

Stanford University: "Stanford University does not support an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Stanford agrees with the position taken by the Association of American Universities on Dec. 20…“
(Strength of the statement: good, but the ASA is not even mentioned.)

Trinity College (CT)"Our Dean ... wish to go on record renouncing the boycott of Israel on the part of the ASA. … In this strange case, why the ASA would propose an academic boycott of Israel and not, for example, of Syria, the Sudan, North Korea, China, Iran, Iraq, or Russia escapes rational thought."
(Strength of the statement: good, with the added welcome mention of other countries deserving boycotts far more than Israel, but the use of the word “renounce” in reference to the ASA’s boycott is a little odd.)

Tufts University"Tufts University strongly opposes the resolution of the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions.”
(Strength of the statement: excellent. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly identified and the boycott strongly rejected.)

University of Alabama System and Birmingham Southern College“… The American Studies Association’s decision to endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is very disappointing.”
(Strength of the statement: weak. While the ASA and Israel are mentioned, to call its decision merely disappointing and failing to clearly condemn or reject it is itself very disappointing.)

University of Chicago:  “... we oppose boycotts of academic institutions or scholars in any region of the world, and oppose recent actions by academic societies to boycott Israeli institutions.”
(Strength of the statement: weak. The ASA is not mentioned, only "Israeli institutions” are.)

University of Cincinnati: “I oppose the American Studies Association boycott of universities and research institutions in Israel."
  (Strength of the statement: good. Short and sweet: both the ASA and Israel are clearly identified and the boycott rejected.)

University of Connecticut"The recent votes of two scholarly societies — the American Studies Association and Association for Asian American Studies — to endorse the Palestinian boycott of Israeli academic institutions is contrary to both academic freedom and the international exchange of ideas. The University of Connecticut joins the American Association of University Professors in firmly opposing all such boycotts.”
(Strength of the statement: excellent. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly identified and the boycott strongly rejected.)

University of Delaware: "The University of Delaware rejects the decision of the American Studies Association to endorse an academic boycott of Israel."
(Strength of the statement: excellent. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned and their position is as simply and strongly stated as is possible.)

University of Maryland"We firmly oppose the call by some academic associations—American Studies Association; Asian-American Studies Association—to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Any such boycott is a breach of the principle of academic freedom that undergirds the University of Maryland and, indeed, all of American higher education." 
(Strength of the statement: excellent. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly identified and the boycott strongly rejected.)

University of Maryland – Baltimore County"A recent vote by members of the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. We oppose academic boycotts because they are inconsistent with the tenets of academic freedom and open scholarly inquiry."  
(Strength of the statement: excellent. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly identified and the boycott strongly rejected.)

University of Miami"We join with other higher education institutions in rejecting the actions of the American Studies Association as misguided, inappropriate, and hostile to the larger purposes of learning, academic freedom, and intellectual exchange— which are fundamental missions of American higher education."
(Strength of the statement: OK. The ASA is clearly mentioned and its action rejected, but Israel is not mentioned.)

University of Michigan"The University of Michigan strongly opposes the boycott of academic institutions in Israel that was recently endorsed by several academic associations. …”
(Strength of the statement: OK. The ASA is clearly mentioned and its action rejected, but Israel is not mentioned.)

University of Texas – Austin"The Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Three U.S. scholarly organizations have now expressed support for such a boycott. ... The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it.”
(Strength of the statement: weakEven though Israeli academic institutions are identified as the victim of the boycott, the ASA is not mentioned, and neither is the actual position of the UoT at Austin.)

Washington University in St. Louis: "Washington University is deeply troubled and dismayed that the American Studies Association (ASA) , among others, has engaged in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. …. This boycott clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it."
(Strength of the statement: good. Both the ASA and Israel are clearly mentioned. Rejection of the boycott is not mentioned but implied strongly enough.)

Wesleyan University"… the [ASA] boycott is a repugnant attack on academic freedom, declaring academic institutions off-limits because of their national affiliation. The ASA has not gone on record against the universities in any other country in the world: not against those that enforce laws against homosexuality, not against those that have rejected freedom of speech, not against those that systematically restrict access to higher education by race, religion or gender. No, the ASA listens to civil society only when it speaks against Israel. As its scholarly president declared, “One has to start somewhere.” Not in North Korea, not in Russia or Zimbabwe or China — one has to start with Israel. Really?”
(Strength of the statement: excellent. Expressed on a more polemical tone than any of the others, WU’s statement goes nevertheless to the heart of the problem presented by the ASA’s absurd double standard.)

Willamette University“… I have never received any request from any faculty member here (or at my previous institutions) asking me to support a boycott of Israel, nor would I be receptive to such a request.”
(Strength of the statement: OK. , but the ASA is not mentioned.)

Yale University“…I stand with the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities in my strong opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. …”
(Strength of the statement: OK. , but the ASA is not mentioned.)

Yeshiva University I have always rejected academic boycotts of any kind & of course YU, as it has & always will, stands w/ Israel.
(Strength of the statement: OK. , but the ASA is not mentioned here either.)
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1 comment:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Gary, you undermine the integrity of your critique (as does the compiler you cite to) by defining as "weak" those statements which affirm a general principle, but do not take a position explicitly for or against Israel. (You are plumping to get a "for" of course.) Israel is irrelevant. The call for a boycott is inappropriate, period. One does not need to be pro-Israel to recognize and say that.