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Professors’ Group Calls on American Studies Association To Vote Down Israel Boycott

The American Association of University Professors called on members of the American Studies Association to vote down a resolution endorsing an academic boycott of Israel.

In an open letter to American Studies Association members published Dec. 6, two days after the ASA’s 20-member national council approved the boycott resolution, the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, which says it opposes academic boycotts as violations of academic freedom, wrote that it “recognizes the right of individual scholars to act in accordance with their own personal consciences.”

“No scholar should be required to participate in any academic activity that violates his or her own principles. In addition, faculty members have the right to organize for or against economic boycotts, divestment, or other forms of sanction. However, an organized academic boycott is a different matter. In seeking to punish alleged violations of academic freedom elsewhere, such boycotts threaten the academic freedom of American scholars to engage the broadest variety of viewpoints,” read the letter signed by AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum; and by AAUP First Vice-President Henry Reichman who is also chairman of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

The AAUP, which calls itself the “principal and oldest organization of American college and university faculty defending academic freedom,” said that it does “not have the organizational capacity to monitor academic freedom at institutions in other countries, nor are we in a position to pick and choose which countries we, as an organization, might judge.”

If a majority of the ASA’s voting members do not vote to endorse the boycott resolution by December 15, the national council said that it will withdraw the resolution and determine next steps. Voting is being undertaken electronically by the body’s 5,000 members.

The boycott is not binding on ASA members, meaning it would apply principally to the activities of the ASA as an organization.

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