University of California First to Issue New Academic Boycott Condemnation
All 10 Chancellors Sign Statement Condemning the Academic Boycott and Recognizing the “Direct and Serious Threat” Implementation Poses to UC Students and Faculty
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, December 13, 2018 – In reply to a letter from 101 organizations and calls from thousands of concerned citizens, the University of California (UC) became the first university to issue a statement of condemnation against any attempts by faculty to implement an academic boycott of Israel on campus.
“As chancellors of the University of California campuses, we write to reaffirm our long- standing opposition to an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholars. Our commitment to continued engagement and partnership with Israeli, as well as Palestinian colleagues, colleges, and universities is unwavering. We believe a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East,” wrote the chancellors.
The statement was signed by all 10 UC chancellors.
Acting on political grounds, college instructors have recently begun attempting to implement the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) guidelines and prevent their students from studying in and about Israel. Earlier this fall, two University of Michigan faculty refused letters of recommendation to Michigan students applying to Israel study abroad programs, and Pitzer College faculty attempted to shut down Pitzer’s Israel study abroad program altogether, as the PACBI boycott calls on faculty to do. Other PACBI guidelines include having faculty scuttle their colleagues’ research collaborations with Israeli universities and scholars and cancel or shutdown student- and faculty-organized educational activities about Israel to take place on their own campus.
Last week, in a letter organized by AMCHA Initiative, 101 national and local organizations called on the 250 college and university leaders, including UC, who in 2013 had issued statements opposing the American Studies Association’s anti-Israel boycott, to sign the “University Leaders Statement Against the Implementation of an Academic Boycott of Israel.” It recognizes the very real harms the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel will cause to students and faculty on American campuses and condemns “in the strongest terms” faculty who would attempt to implement an academic boycott of Israel on their campuses, making it clear to faculty that such behavior will not be tolerated. Some of the organizations are B’nai B’rith International, NCSY, the Academic Engagement Network, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, many Conservative and Reformed national organizations, and the American Zionist Movement.
The 101 groups today strongly commended the chancellors for their understanding of the direct threat the academic boycott poses on U.S. students and for their unequivocal commitment to protecting students’ rights, stating, “Our 101 organizations applaud you for issuing a strong and unwavering statement of condemnation of the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel on UC campuses, in response to our request.” They also thanked the chancellors for “speaking up in defense of the academic rights of all students and faculty at the University of California,” and they called on other university presidents to follow UC’s lead.
To support last week’s group letter, this week, AMCHA asked its supporters to sign a national petition and to write letters to their respective college and university leaders urging them to sign the University Leaders Statement or to issue their own statements condemning implementation of an academic boycott. Nearly 2,000 individuals have already signed the national petition and hundreds have written letters.
“While the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has long been understood as an effort aimed at Israel and Israeli universities and scholars, that is only a piece of the actual picture. As UC has correctly recognized, an academic boycott, if allowed to be implemented, will directly violate the rights of, and substantively harm, students and faculty on U.S. campuses, many of them Jewish students,” stated Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA’s founder and director. “If this was just about Israel, we would not be involved, as AMCHA is not an Israel advocacy organization. However, this is about protecting the academic freedom and educational rights of Jewish students, which will be violated if an academic boycott is permitted.”
“Now that professors are actually attempting to implement PACBI’s academic boycott and curtail American students’ rights, the statements issued in 2013 are no longer sufficient,” added Rossman-Benjamin. “University leaders must sign the University Leaders Statement or issue their own statements as UC has done, making it abundantly clear that under no circumstances will faculty be allowed to implement an academic boycott of Israel and put their own political interests above their own students.”
Presidents can sign the University Leaders Statement or use it as a model for their own condemnation statements. The University Leaders Statement acknowledges that PACBI tactics will not only inflict serious harm on Israeli academic institutions, but on faculty and students at U.S. schools; affirms that implementation of the academic boycott of Israel subverts the scholarly and educational opportunities and curtails the academic freedom of students and faculty on U.S. campuses; and puts faculty on alert that behavior that treats students as collateral damage to a political agenda is wrong and violates the principles of collegiality and academic integrity central to higher education institutions and will not be tolerated.
AMCHA and its allies will continue to work with universities to get presidents to sign the statement or put out their own.
AMCHA monitors more than 400 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. It is the only organization that documents incidents in real time on its website for the public. AMCHA recorded 469 known anti-Semitic incidents in 2015, 639 in 2016, 652 in 2017, and 564 so far in 2018. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.