In reply to a letter from 101 organizations and calls from thousands of concerned citizens, the University of California (UC) on Thursday became the first university to issue a statement of condemnation against any attempts by faculty to implement an academic boycott of Israel on campus.
“As chancellors of the University of California campuses, we write to reaffirm our long- standing opposition to an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholars. Our commitment to continued engagement and partnership with Israeli, as well as Palestinian colleagues, colleges, and universities is unwavering. We believe a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East,” wrote the chancellors.
The statement was signed by all 10 UC chancellors.
Acting on political grounds, college instructors have recently begun attempting to implement the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) guidelines and prevent their students from studying in and about Israel. Earlier this fall, two University of Michigan faculty refused letters of recommendation to Michigan students applying to Israel study abroad programs, and Pitzer College faculty attempted to shut down Pitzer’s Israel study abroad program altogether, as the PACBI boycott calls on faculty to do. Other PACBI guidelines include having faculty scuttle their colleagues’ research collaborations with Israeli universities and scholars and cancel or shutdown student- and faculty-organized educational activities about Israel to take place on their own campus.
Last week, in a letter organized by AMCHA Initiative, 101 national and local organizations called on the 250 college and university leaders, including UC, who in 2013 had issued statements opposing the American Studies Association’s anti-Israel boycott, to sign the “University Leaders Statement Against the Implementation of an Academic Boycott of Israel.” It recognizes the very real harms the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel will cause to students and faculty on American campuses and condemns “in the strongest terms” faculty who would attempt to implement an academic boycott of Israel on their campuses, making it clear to faculty that such behavior will not be tolerated. Some of the organizations are B’nai B’rith International, NCSY, the Academic Engagement Network, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, many Conservative and Reformed national organizations, and the American Zionist Movement.
The 101 groups strongly commended the chancellors for their understanding of the direct threat the academic boycott poses on US students and for their unequivocal commitment to protecting students’ rights, stating, “Our 101 organizations applaud you for issuing a strong and unwavering statement of condemnation of the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel on UC campuses, in response to our request.” They also thanked the chancellors for “speaking up in defense of the academic rights of all students and faculty at the University of California,” and they called on other university presidents to follow UC’s lead.