The resolution passed at the recent meeting of the American Studies Association (ASA) calling for a boycott of Israeli universities has raised considerable consternation. While the ASA may be a relatively small (approximately 5,000 member) organization, and while hardly more than 800 of its members voted for that resolution – which critics including ASA members claim was railroaded through – the issue is of legitimate concern to all true supporters of academic freedom, fairness, and a just resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
As the American Association of University Professors and other groups and individuals from the world of academia have proclaimed, the very concept of academic boycotts is totally alien to the principles of academic freedom which are basic to university life. And by singling out Israeli universities, and only them, as it has done, the ASA has invited criticism of its motives as well as it methods.
In response to this repugnant act by a body which has been described as “a fringe of a fringe,” university presidents and administrators around the country have raised their voices to condemn the step taken by the ASA, to support academic freedom, and in some cases to end their own institution’s membership in the ASA.
In our own area, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago were quick to raise their voices in this way. We commend and applaud those and other universities, listed here, that have already spoken out in opposition to the ASA academic boycott resolution or gone further and retracted their membership in ASA. Our hope and expectation is that all universities will join this chorus speaking up for academic freedom and against the violation of academic standards by the ASA and any other association who use their pulpits to promote misguided political agendas.