University Chancellors & Presidents:

Statements Following Campus BDS Resolutions


    May 24, 2018 – President Schill statement following the passage of a BDS resolution, “The Associated Students of the University of Oregon recently approved a resolution in which they endorsed the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement against Israel and resolved to prohibit the purchase of products from certain firms because of those companies’ presumed connections to Israel…I would also like to acknowledge that the ASUO didn’t go so far as to adopt the tactics of the BDS movement with respect to boycotts of intellectual interchange between Israel and other nations. Not allowing the free interchange of scholars would harm the very mission of our university and interfere with academic freedom…Regardless of the relative merits of the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel, it is important that all of us make every effort we can to avoid dividing our community along the lines of ideology, religion or national origin. To many Jewish people, myself included, the BDS movement not only seeks to criticize the policies of the current Israeli government, but also calls into question the very right of the State of the Israel to exist. As ASUO considers future legislative actions on behalf of the student body, I hope our student leaders will seek ways to band together in support of our common humanity.”
    April 24, 2018 – George Washington University President LeBlanc – Following a BDS vote, President LeBlanc issued a statement that said, “Last night, the university’s student senate passed a resolution calling for divestment from certain companies because they do business with Israel. While I support the student senate’s right to express their views in the form of a resolution, I want to be clear to our university community that this does not represent the university’s views and the university will not implement such a proposal. Our university is home to many people who are deeply engaged on the issues inherent to this conflict. We have hosted a range of programming, representing a wide variety of viewpoints and ideas. The university prioritizes the safety and security of all our students and our campus community. I encourage the GW community to foster an inclusive environment and to continue to engage in open, respectful dialogue.”
    April 20, 2018 – During a public town hall, President Hamilton was asked about a BDS resolution, which was supported by 50 organizations, and called for an academic boycott. He responded by saying he opposes BDS and is “quite frankly” distressed by the statement 50 student groups made. He further clarified, “We believe the university exist to bring people together not to separate them. For this reason, I am opposed to BDS. The university will not participate in the boycotting of academics based in Israel. We believe in academic freedom and the free flow of ideas. Boycotting is antithetical to that position.”
    March 15, 2018 – Following a BDS vote at UIUC, University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen issued a statement to the community that said, “In alignment with the American Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and many other distinguished higher education institutions, the University of Illinois System leadership stands in strong opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement’s call for a boycott of Israel. While we acknowledge and affirm the rights of faculty and students to express their own viewpoints, we believe that actions such as those espoused by BDS would damage academic freedom and may have an intended or unintended anti-Semitic effect which we utterly condemn. We will continue to strenuously oppose actions that go beyond protected speech and that seek to harass, delegitimize, alienate and spread fear within our student communities on the basis of religion – whether our Jewish and Muslim student bodies or any other religious student community. To reiterate: we will NOT tolerate pervasive harassment or discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation or any other personal factors or characteristics. Such activities are inimical to the values that our system embraces…Our commitment to social justice and to excellence in free, open and engaged scholarship drives us to study, understand and help build solutions for even the most complex challenges we face globally and domestically. To that end, we welcome and embrace ALL of our students.”
    March 7, 2018 – President Kaler released a statement recognizing the negative effects of BDS for Jewish students stating, “With full deference to the rights of our students to participate in the democratic process, I will have no comment on the elections until the results of the voting are known. However, the inclusion on the ballot of a non-binding referendum that names Israel is exacerbating tension and fueling discrimination toward Jewish students. My statement of two years ago is as relevant today as it was then: ‘Our University strongly and unequivocally condemns prejudice and hostility toward Jews, as we condemn bias against any groups.’”
    February 16, 2018 – “I would remind you that the campus and the entire university system are on record in opposition to any of Israeli academic institutions and have opposed divestment measures in the past.”
    December 14, 2017 – “After careful consideration of this resolution, we decline to do so. More broadly, we strongly oppose any action involving the boycott, divestment or sanction of Israel…Most importantly, our university has long been a community that seeks to study and improve the human condition through our research and scholarship. We work together to better understand the most complex challenges we face on campus and beyond. We do this work through active engagement in the world around us. To boycott, divest or sanction Israel offends these bedrock values of our great university.”
    April 25, 2017 – President Jane Conoley (who was Chancellor during the divestment vote at UC Riverside previously) – “Adoption of this [divestment] resolution may lead to an increase in anti-Semitic vandalism on campus as it has on other college campuses when similar resolutions were passed. Even during our local debate, anti-Jewish vandalism has increased at Long Beach State. This increase has frightened our Jewish students and concerned all community members devoted to social justice and the safety of minority populations….My intent in mentioning other countries was to ask the question, ‘Why the Jews?’ There’s a case to be made that even in the USA we have witnessed gross violations of human rights, voting rights and educational rights to name a few. Why not mention other countries in addition to Israel?… Passing the resolution is unlikely to have an impact on the situation in the Middle East and will more likely send a negative message to Jewish students that does not promote inclusion.”
    In advance of the American Anthropological Association academic boycott vote, University of California President and each of the 9 Chancellors signed a statement which expressed that, “The University of California believes that an academic boycott is an inappropriate response to a foreign policy issue and one that threatens academic freedom and sets a damaging precedent for academia. We urge Association members to consider the boycott’s potentially harmful impacts and oppose this resolution.”
    When he was President of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers labeled anti-Israel divestment initiatives on his campus “anti-Semitic in effect if not intent.” More recently in January 2015, he suggested that “failure of American academic leaders to aggressively take on the challenge posed by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction movement represents a consequential abdication of moral responsibility.”
    Following the passage of an anti-Israel divestment resolution in Loyola University’s student government in April 2015, University President Father Michael Garanzini sent a letter to the campus community condemning the resolution for being divisive and saying that it “pits student against student.”
    Prior to a BDS vote by the student government in June 2016, President Wim Weivel sent a message to the campus community that called the BDS resolution “divisive and ill-informed.” He further stated, “The tone and tenor of the BDS movement has made members of our community feel unsafe and unwelcome at PSU, and it is not acceptable to marginalize or scapegoat them. Anti-Semitism cannot and will not be tolerated on our campus.”
    Stanford University President John Hennessy issued a statement in February 2015 following the Stanford student senate’s passage of an anti-Israel divestment resolution, in which he said that in his 15 years as President and more than 30 years as a faculty member he had “never seen a topic that has been more divisive within the university community,” and he warned that “an atmosphere of intimidation or vitriol endangers our ability to operate as an intellectual community.”
    In a November 2015 statement following a contentious divestment vote on his campus, UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal expressed his fear that the resolution “will have a chilling effect on individuals within our campus community” and that its passage “may create an environment in which some of our Jewish students feel alienated and less welcome on our campus.”
    In a 2010 statement firmly rejecting the notion that the University of California would divest from Israel or companies doing business with Israel, UC President Mark Yudof and Board of Regents Chair Russell Gould and Vice Chair Sherry Lansing stated: “This isolation of Israel among all the countries in the world greatly disturbs us and is of grave concern to members of the Jewish community.”
    March 8, 2016 – University of Minnesota President, Eric W. Kaler – “The University does not endorse measures advocated in the SJP resolution, which has been offered in support of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement. The BDS Movement, while not directly mentioned in the resolution, has called for a comprehensive academic, cultural, economic and consumer boycott of Israel. In general, our university should be wary about such boycotts, given our core values of academic freedom and our commitment to the free exchange of ideas, uncertainty about the impact of such efforts, and concerns that we may be unfairly singling out one government and the citizens of the country in question. In this case, my concerns are heightened by the fact that the Global BDS movement does not seem to distinguish between opposition to the policies of the government of Israel and opposition to the existence of Israel.”
    August 13, 2016 – Yeshiva University President, Richard M. Joel –  “As an educator and university president, I see a profound contradiction between the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or B.D.S., movement and the mission of higher education. B.D.S. paints in deceptively broad strokes an issue that is deeply complex. It condemns the entire nation of Israel and shuns all of its considerable human and material capital, including academics, regardless of political orientation, and technology, regardless of positive utility. The effects of this movement are far-reaching. Disturbing evidence shows that it has become a convenient excuse to delegitimize or malign Jewish identity on several college campuses, and Jewish students have become targets of anti-Semitic slurs, graffiti and hate speech by fellow students and, in some shocking incidents, by faculty members. This trend must be confronted. One of our primary jobs as educators is to ensure the safety and well-being of our students. To do so, colleges and universities must think and act seriously about cultivating and promoting civility on our campuses and make clear that free, meaningful expression can survive only in an environment where there are appropriate rules of engagement. It will not tamp down the crucial exchange of ideas. It will make this exchange more dignified, more meaningful and even more productive. Free speech for all has to ensure safe speech for all.”