A New York State Assembly bill intended to punish academic groups that boycott Israel was withdrawn for reconsideration ahead of a planned vote earlier this week.
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One of the bills co-sponsors, Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, chairwoman of the legislative body's Higher Education Committee, withdrew the legislation amid sharp criticism from universities located in the state and professional associations. A similar bill was already passed by the New York State Senate in a 56-4 vote last week.
The bill would forbid colleges from providing state funding to groups advocating boycotts of other countries that "host higher education institutions chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York,” according to the New York Times.
New York's Board of Regents has chartered such institutions in four countries: Lebanon, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Israel. There are no significant academic boycott campaigns against the first three countries involving colleges located in New York State, the New York Times reported. However the American Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies have announced boycotts of Israeli academic institutions to protest Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
Among the Assembly's 150 members, 48 sponsored the bill, including Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver. Silver's press secretary, Michael Whyland, told the New York Times that the State Assembly speaker planned to reintroduce the bill, but would clarify its penalties to make sure it did not involve the cessation of state funding for universities. Whyland said that academic associations that violated the measure would not be able to receive reimbursement for their expenses.
The American Jewish Committee applauded the withdrawal of the bill. “There is no question that the academic boycott against Israel is a gross violation of academic freedom,” said Steven Bayme, AJC’s Director of Contemporary Jewish Life.