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This is an open letter sent by Barbara Harvey to friends. She allowed us to publish it here. -Ed.
Dear friends and academic supporters of BDS,
The American Association of University Professors has thrown down the gauntlet! Will we seize it? Look at this request for articles from AAUP [excerpt here]:
The Palestinian Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) Movement has picked up steam and generated significant controversy in recent years in the US and Britain. The AAUP rejects this campaign, largely on the grounds of academic freedom. Can a case be made for endorsing the campaign without infringing academic freedom? How might the previous history of academic boycotts inform our perspectives on this issue?
Below is the full notice of a precious opportunity to persuade the American Association of University Professors to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. The AAUP notice implies that it wants to be persuaded that it should endorse BDS, and even join the academic boycott, but still needs a lot of help to get there and even more help in defending such a decision, if it does get there. Please accept the invitation to submit requested papers, if you’re able, and ask qualified others to do the same.
With great respect for commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression, I believe that academic and cultural boycott against Israel, until it ends its occupation with fairness and justice for Palestinians, is the appropriate tactical choice, even for institutions, such as the AAUP, deeply committed to academic freedom. My own rationale is twofold:
1. Israel is in fact deeply hostile to core values of academic freedom for non-Jews, including the basic freedom to get an education and travel for educational purposes, at home and abroad. Illustrating the point is that this past Monday, as reported by the Associated Press, Israel has persuaded the U.S. government to cancel a modest scholarship program allowing promising young students from the Gaza Strip to study in the West Bank: “Under Israeli pressure, U.S. officials have quietly canceled a two-year-old scholarship program for students in the Gaza Strip, undercutting a program that American diplomats say has been key in providing needed educational opportunities for students in the Palestinian territories.”
Although an Israeli spokesperson said “the policy is part of Israel’s struggle against Hamas,” it actually, and predictably, has the opposite effect. The student interviewed by the AP is now enrolled in Islamic University in Gaza, “a stronghold of Gaza’s ruling Islamic militant Hamas.” The policy is, in fact, consistent with Israel’s long-term policy of making life in occupied Palestine so miserable, by all available means, that the Palestinians who still remain will give up in despair and leave for the diaspora.
Israel’s policies methodically and deliberately deprive one of the most literate societies on Earth, the Palestinians, of the rights to an education and to travel for educational purposes — conduct that is plainly antithetical to academic freedom.
2. Passivity amounts to support for practices that are anathema to academic freedom. For the same moral and ethical reasons that warranted rejection of “business as usual” with South Africa, we have a moral duty to take a vigorous stand against collective punishment and the methodical dismantling of an entire civilization, one of the oldest on record, while continuing business as usual with the wrongdoer. It is immoral, unethical, intellectually dishonest, and simply perverse to invoke a commitment to academic freedom as justification for refusing to take one of the few effective actions that we are able to take, as educated people, to show our collective condemnation of a nation’s serious, longstanding, and continuing violations of human rights, equal rights, legal rights, and academic freedom.
Please note the deadline for submissions, below. Thank you!
From: [AAUP member newsletter]
Subject: AAUP Member Newsletter: Call for Papers: Academic Freedom and Globalization
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2012
The AAUPâ€™s Journal of Academic Freedom ( http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/jaf/) seeks scholarly articles relating to the topic of academic freedom and globalization. How is the expansion of US higher education around the world and the increasing international integration of academia affecting academic freedom? In what ways, conversely, is the globalization of higher education transforming academia within the United States, shifting and impinging upon traditional notions of academic freedom?
Some of the topics that might be germane to this discussion include:
Academic freedom at satellite campuses such as NYU-Abu Dhabi and Yale-Singapore. How does the expansion of the liberal university into such authoritarian states affect its mission and the forms of academic freedom enjoyed by scholars at such institutions?
From the Occupy movement in the US to the uprisings in Chile, the last year or so has seen a wave of student protest. These protests have often targeted the increasingly privatized, corporate character of education around the globe. In what ways have these protests highlighted issues relating to academic freedom? How, for example, has faculty control of curriculum been inflected by these apparently economically driven protests?
The Palestinian Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) Movement picked up steam and generated significant controversy in recent years in the US and Britain. The AAUP rejects this campaign, largely on the grounds of academic freedom. Can a case be made for endorsing the campaign without infringing academic freedom? How might the previous history of academic boycotts inform our perspectives on this issue?
Around the globe, austerity is being imposed on academia in the wake of the Great Recession. What is the impact of specific austerity measures on academic freedom? Where can we look to see how things might be done differently?
During the last year, so-called Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) have exploded in popularity, with large international student subscriptions to both for-profit and not-for-profit online courses offered by elite US private institutions such as MIT and Stanford. What is the impact of such MOOCs on education and academic freedom in developing nations?
The due date for papers on the topic of academia and globalization is January 31, 2012. [This is surely a typo. Barbara Harvey believes the correct date is January 31, 2013.]
In addition to accepting scholarly papers relating to this topic, the Journal of Academic Freedom continues to welcome submissions on eclectic topics.
Electronic submissions should go to email@example.com and must include an abstract of about 150 words. The journal uses the sixteenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style and authors should anticipate that if their article is accepted for publication, it will need to be put into Chicago style.
Ashley Dawson, Editor, Journal of Academic Freedom
The AAUP Online is an electronic newsletter of the American Association of University Professors. The mission of the AAUP is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. By joining, faculty members, academic professionals, and graduate students help to shape the future of the profession and proclaim their dedication to the education community. Visit the AAUP website and Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.