In response to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions, 229 colleges and universities here in the US as well as higher education associations such as the Association of American Universities have publicly condemned the ASA’s decision as a violation to academic freedom. Take Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, who wrote that “academic boycotts subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas.” Some institutions, such as Kenyon College and Bard College, have withdrawn their membership from the ASA. Others have also issued statements opposing the boycott though unaffiliated with the ASA, like Brown University. Yet our own Macalester College has said nothing to condemn this boycott of academic institutions.
We are strong proponents of Palestinian rights. We lobby for a two-state solution that would allow Israelis and Palestinians their own democratic states. We are troubled by Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and we are hopeful seeing that President Obama has prioritized ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like the ASA, we are “…dedicated to the rights of students and scholars to pursue education and research without undue state interference, repression and military violence, and…[support] the rights of students and scholars to intellectual freedom and to political dissent as citizens and scholars.” On campus we engage in dialogue with others that care about what goes on on the ground in Israel and Palestine.
The ASA boycott does not expedite the two-state solution or alleviate Palestinian suffering.
Boycotting academic institutions in Israel or anywhere else in the world is a threat to academic freedom. Macalester needs to set a precedent for its students to engage critically on this issue, a feat already accomplished by student organizations on campus as well as academic departments that include scholarly works on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their courses. To demonstrate its appreciation of the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Macalester needs to publicly state that the actions of the ASA are contrary to the mission of academic institutions in the United States, Israel, Palestine and every other state in the world.
We therefore urge Macalester to stand with the 229 colleges and universities that have opposed the ASA’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Macalester should be the first to speak up when there is a threat to academic freedom. No threat to academic freedom is too small to merit a response. We urge you to question Macalester College’s administration on their decision to remain silent on academic freedom.
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