Presidents of Brown, RWU, Salve Regina, and URI Condemn Britain’s Academic Boycott of Israel
A large group of American University and College Presidents have signed a letter published in the New York Times, attributed to President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University, condemning the decision of Britain’s new University and College Union to academically boycott Israeli Universities…
Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours,Too!Included amongst the signatories are President Robert L. Carothers of the University of Rhode Island, President M. Therese Antone of Salve Regina University, and President Roy J. Nirschel of Roger Williams University(*).
As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain’s new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.
At Columbia, I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate—as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their government’s policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.
President Ruth Simmons of Brown University has issued her own letter condemning the boycott…
The University and College Union’s decision to consider support for a boycott of academic institutions in Israel has rightly aroused concern among the members of the Brown University Community. I have followed this issue closely and with mounting dismay.A quick search of the websites of Providence College, Bryant University and Rhode Island College didn’t turn up any individual letters or statements regarding the boycott.
Institutions of higher learning go to extraordinary lengths to defend the free flow of information, the unfettered exchange of ideas, and the primacy of well-reasoned argument. Defending these fundamental principles is not merely a matter for debate. With those principles in place, the academy cannot exist.
A boycott of the sort your organization is considering – a measure that attempts to silence or marginalize the scholars of an entire nation – is inimical to those fundamental principles and could do great harm to colleges and universities. Supporting such a boycott of scholars from Israel or any other part of the world is not an option for people who are dedicated to the core principles of the academy. As president of Brown University, I write to inform you that we strongly support Israeli universities and will assist them in efforts to protect scholars from political pressure of the kind the forthcoming debate intends.
(*)Title and body corrected to include President Nirschel’s signature on the NYT letter, inadvertently omitted from the original post