American Universities: Boycott of Israel Violates Academic Freedom

Association of 62 American and Canadian universities calls on scholars worldwide to oppose ASA boycott, approved a week ago.


The Association of American Universities issued a statement Friday harshly criticizing the academic boycott of Israeli institutions announced by several associations, calling it a violation of academic freedom.

The statement came after the American Studies Association announced Monday that it would boycott Israeli academic institutions.

The AAU was founded in 1900 and consists of 62 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada.

In the statement, the Executive Committee of the AAU said academic freedom should allow universities to "produce and disseminate knowledge without undue restraint" and that this principle "should not be abridged by political considerations."

"Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should not themselves infringe upon academic freedom," the committee wrote, " Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom."

Thus, it wrote, the boycott of Israeli academic institutions "clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it," and urged scholars in America and around the world to oppose the boycott and others like it.

Among the signatories to the statement are William C. Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin, Morton O. Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, and David Skorton, president of Cornell University.

According to the statement, three U.S. scholarly organizations have already expressed support for the ASA boycott.

Meanwhile, two universities have announced that they would sever ties with the ASA over the boycott. Penn State Harisburg said Wednesday that it planned to drop its institutional membership and would encourage others to follow suit, while the American Studies Program at Brandeis University announced that day that it too would cut ties with the association.

Campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 30, 2012. Credit: AP

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