Statement on ASA Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Friday, December 27, 2013

The American Studies Association’s recent resolution boycotting Israeli higher education institutions is troubling. While the ASA’s action appears to limit only the association’s professional activities, and not the scholarly activities of individual faculty members, I believe that such boycotts undermine academic freedom, which is a fundamental value of American higher education.

Both the Association of American Universities and the American Association of University Professors have opposed this boycott and I support those actions. The AAU, of which the University of Minnesota is a member, issued the following statement that also reflects my views on the matter:

The Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Three U.S. scholarly organizations have now expressed support for such a boycott. 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.

Academic freedom is the freedom of university faculty responsibly to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching, and service, without undue constraint. It is a principle that should not be abridged by political considerations. American colleges and universities, as well as like institutions elsewhere, must stand as the first line of defense against attacks on academic freedom.

Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should not themselves infringe upon academic freedom. 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.