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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘AAUP’

Philly Federation: Urge Your Alma Maters to Leave Group Boycotting Israel

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

The president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia sent out a statement condemning the recent boycott of Israeli academic institutions by the American Studies Association to the Federation’s boards of directors and trustees. The statement will also be sent to the general public.

In the statement, high-powered securities lawyer Sherrie R. Savett makes clear that the Philadelphia Federation finds the boycott of Israel by the ASA to constitute an effort to both delegitimize Israel and to undermine the fundamental principle of academic freedom.

Savett quotes condemnations of the boycott by the American Association of University Professors and by the Association of American Universities, and the suggestion of the executive committee of the AAU to “American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.”

Then she calls on all who will read the statement of the JFGP to do two things.

First, she suggests that “any academics or people who are closely affiliated with the leadership of a college or university, to contact them regarding institutional resignation.” Several schools have already withdrawn their membership in the ASA because of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Those schools include Penn State University, Brandeis University, Kenyon College and Indiana University.

Second, she asks Federation supporters and others in the region to “condemn this action and exert influence by writing to the presidents and provosts of your alma maters, calling on them to make public statements in opposition to all academic boycotts.

The Jewish Press reached Savett by phone who was still in her law office late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.

“There is a concerted strategy of public relations warfare here in the U.S. to poison the minds of students and others against Israel.  We have to use our voices loudly and clearly to push back at the deep-rooted anti-Semitism that is driving these efforts to destroy and dismantle the state of Israel,” Savett said.

“The goal of the people driving these boycotts is to turn Israel into a pariah state, and then to destroy that state, and they are doing this in the guise of liberalism.

“We at the [Philadelphia] Federation call upon universities and colleges to withdraw from the ASA and to condemn it for embracing this boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a move which is antithetical to academic freedom.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is the first Federation to take such a clear, unequivocal, action-oriented stance against the ASA boycott. Go Philly!

This is the statement that was sent out by Sherrie R. Savett, president of the JFGP, on Tuesday, Dec. 24

Good morning everyone,

 As you are well aware, last week the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to adopt an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Unfortunately, this issue has gained national attention.  Coverage also spotlights several organizations that have or are considering endorsing anti-Israel resolutions. In the case of academic boycotts, these efforts both seek to delegitimize Israel and undermine the fundamental principle of academic freedom.

Together with the 40,000 member American Association of University Professors (AAUP), we believe in and support the right of scholars to freely pursue ideas without being targeted for repression, discipline, or institutional censorship. To echo the AAUP, the ASA “vote represents a setback for the cause of academic freedom.”

Further, the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an association of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada including Harvard, Stanford and Yale, condemned the move. “Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general,” their statement read. “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. 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. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.”

There are currently efforts underway by academics both in and outside of ASA to call on their universities to withdraw their institutional memberships from the ASA using the message of the endangerment of academic freedom and the singling out of one country for discriminatory treatment. If you are an academic or closely affiliated with the leadership of a college or university, contact them regarding institutional resignation.

Please see the attached list of institutions that hold institutional membership in ASA. Two universities have already dropped their membership and many have publicly condemned the boycott move (they are listed in the attached document).

We ask you to join us in the effort to condemn this action and exert influence by writing to the presidents and provosts of your alma maters, calling on them to make public statements in opposition to all academic boycotts.

Thank you for your leadership.

Brooklyn College Students Explain Academic Freedom to BC Profs, Admin.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Yesterday The Jewish Press ran a story about an upcoming anti-Israel event that will take place on the Brooklyn College Campus next week.  The article explained that while the university administration has not endorsed the event, it supports its political science department which has both endorsed and is co-sponsoring the event, the goal of which is to encourage everyone to embrace the movement to Boycott, Divest from and employ Sanctions against the State of Israel. It is a means of “economic warfare” employed by the enemies of the Jewish State to punish Israel.

In particular, the article noted, BDS seeks to bar Israeli academics from participation in journals, research, public lectures and teaching, yet the Brooklyn College political science department is not only a co-sponsor but has officially endorsed the event, all in the name of “academic freedom.”

Today the president of Brooklyn College’s Assembly (the undergraduate government), Abraham Esses, released the following statement:

“Dear students, faculty members, and administrators,

Over the past few days, there has been much confusion as to exactly why students are upset about the upcoming BDS event on campus. Although the controversy first became public last week, each of Brooklyn College’s student governments have not been directly involved until the past few days. The reason for CLAS’s involvement, accordingly, has nothing to do with the event itself, but instead the recklessness in which faculty members and administrators have approached the event.

The department’s approach to the issue is far from constructive; knowing well in advance that such sponsorship would insult and isolate a large portion of its students, it chose to express its own opinions through a venue that inhibits open dialogue and honest debate. Far from being receptive to students’ concerns, I regret to inform you that they have repeatedly turned down students’ requests to meet and discuss the issue further. Student leaders with questions about the intent of the sponsorship were repeatedly denied meetings, which does worry me as to their original intent. The consequences of these decisions are clear; a growing number of students on campus feel isolated from the very professors whom they once looked to for guidance, and unnecessarily divided against a large portion of the student body. What’s worse, the cause of this rift stems from administrative and faculty bodies who have, throughout the years, frequently stressed the importance of cultivating campus unity.

Along with their right to promote certain opinions comes the responsibility to convey these opinions in a proper manner. This is not an opinion of mine, but rather that of the AAUP, a body responsible for defining what exactly academic freedom rights entail. Professors, according to the AAUP, “should exercise appropriate restraint” when speaking about controversial matters, and “should show respect for the opinions of others”. In endorsing a divisive, controversial event while failing to do so in a way that allows our students and faculty to engage in constructive dialogue, the Political Science Department has failed its students miserably. Like the right to free speech, academic freedom rights are not unbounded; the department has basically yelled “fire” on campus, and locked the doors to their department after doing so. By doing so, it has failed to accomplish one of the main benefits of academic freedom rights, that is, the approach of all ideas and issues with an open mind. Such a failure constitutes as a gross abuse of such rights.

Moreover, I find the administration’s slow, halfhearted response to the issue to be appalling. Without any support or sympathy for students’ complaints, the administration seems complacent in a department’s clear abuse of its rights and responsibilities. Furthermore, the administration has failed to consult any student group before issuing its statement in support of the Political Science’s sponsorship decision. I believe this approach to be indicative of the respect, or lack thereof, which they have for students on campus. Whereas I understand its hesitation, the administration has clearly failed to represent and act for its own constituents.

While fully cognizant of the academic freedom rights enumerated to Brooklyn College faculty members, I truly regret the divisive attitude with which both the Political Science Department and the Administration have approached the department’s recent decision to sponsor a BDS event. I sincerely hope that, should a similar scenario occur in the future, the administration act in a more responsible, sensible manner. Regardless of those involved, more respect is due to the students of Brooklyn College.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/brooklyn-college-students-explain-academic-freedom-to-bc-profs-admin/2013/01/30/

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