Backlash Against U.S. Academic Association for Israel Boycott Move

American Studies departments at Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg sever links to American Studies Association, saying boycott curtails academic freedom.

In what could mark the start of a widespread retaliation campaign, the American studies departments at two United States universities announced Wednesday that they would sever their ties with the American Studies Association (ASA) in the wake of its announcement on Monday that it would boycott Israeli academic institutions.

The blog Legal Insurrection was first to report that the American Studies Department at Penn State Harrisburg, a branch of Pennsylvania State University, would detach itself from ASA. According to a statement made by Dr. Simon Bronner, who heads the department, such boycott decisions curtail academic freedom and undermine the reputation of American Studies as a scholarly enterprise."

The chair of the American Studies program at Penn State Harrisburg plans to drop its institutional membership and will encourage others to do so, the statement said.

A few hours later, the American Studies Program at Brandeis University published a statement on its website announcing that it will also cut its ties with the ASA.

It is with deep regret that we in the American Studies Program at Brandeis University have decided to discontinue our institutional affiliation with the American Studies Association. We view the recent vote by the membership to affirm an academic boycott of Israel as a politicization of the discipline and a rebuke to the kind of open inquiry that a scholarly association should foster. We remain committed to the discipline of American Studies but we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture-- freedom of association and expression, the statement said.

The 5,000 member ASA announced on Monday that it would boycott Israeli academic institutions, but not individual Israeli academics. A similar motion is expected to be discussed at an upcoming January convention of the Modern Language Association, which has 30,000 members. 

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