Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hypocrisy of US and Canadian University Presidents Condemning Academic Boycott

In the last few weeks, university presidents across the US and Canada have rushed to issue statements about the proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions by the British University and College Union. They view this boycott as a serious violation of academic freedom. Yet, given the general failure of these leaders to comment on any number of infringements of academic freedom that have occurred in recent years, including those close to home in the form of the politically-motivated denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein and the colleague, Mehrene Larudee, who very publicly supported him, the harassment of Columbia University professors Joseph Massad and Rashid Khalidi, and the intimidation of faculty by Campuswatch, one might be excused for concluding that university presidents prefer to remain above the political fray and reserve their office for grave and important but non-controversial pronouncements on tsunamis. But now, even in the midst of the hot and hazy summer recess, university presidents have mobilized their most imposing academic rhetoric in expressing solidarity with Israeli academics and upholding the rights of all to engage in "an open exchange of ideas" and "freedom of association."

What is perhaps most perplexing about this trend is its entirely virtual nature, for in fact no one's freedom has been violated by the boycott yet under discussion. Nevertheless, university presidents are preparing in advance for what could be an "attack ... [on] all universities at their core mission" (Gilles Patry, University of Ottawa) and a "threat ... [to] the moral foundation of each and every university" (Amy Guttman, University of Pennsylvania). [1] University of Virginia President John Casteen compares the proposed boycott to "the conduct of the most vicious political movements and governments of the 20th century." Yet, surely they must realize that Palestinians have for many decades suffered a multitude of assaults on their universities and schools by the Israeli occupying forces. Surely if university presidents are up in arms over a proposed boycott of Israeli academics, they must have something to say about the shutting down of universities, jailing and shooting of students and faculty, daily impeding of students and faculty from getting to classes, denial of student permits to attend universities, and revoking of visas to visiting scholars and researchers that characterizes academic life in Palestine. If a boycott of academic institutions is considered unfair, what does one call the methodical destruction of an educational system?

Read on at Electronic Intifada

Here for my reply to Chancellor Drake's message condemning the academic boycott (jazaks 'Nabulsi' for posting). I emailed it to the Chancellor last month but never got a reply.

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