Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nerd News: The Latest Academic Boycott of Israel ... and Its Opponents

So another academic organization wants to boycott Israeli institutions (hence the tag "Nerds Behaving Badly"), but this time the pushback has been gratifyingly robust. Law prof William Jacobson has been keeping track of this and of the increasing number of institutions that are voicing their opposition.  Here is a collection of official statements by various university presidents on the topic.

Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, has recently written an op-ed about this in the Los Angeles Times, and it is worth a read.  Here's a piece of it (and it's also the quote of the day):
Boycotts don't serve these debates; they seek to cut them off by declaring certain academic institutions and their faculty off-limits. This tactic, in the words of Richard Slotkin, an emeritus professor here at Wesleyan University, "is wrong in principle, politically impotent, intellectually dishonest and morally obtuse." 
As president of Wesleyan, and as a historian, I deplore this politically retrograde resolution of the American Studies Assn. Under the guise of phony progressivism, the group has initiated an irresponsible attack on academic freedom. Others in academia should reject this call for an academic boycott.
Academic boycotts are antithetical to the very idea of academic freedom.  Every responsible nerd should be voicing his/her opposition.  This is the real issue.  Israeli policy is not.  Remember, darlings, that the AAUP opposes all academic boycotts as a matter of principle.


UPDATE: Even the Washington Post editorial weighs in: "terribly misguided" and "fundamentally wrong."

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