Pres. Brown rejects boycott of Israeli institutions

Boston University President Robert Brown voiced his disapproval of a scholarly association’s boycott on Israeli institutions in a letter released Dec. 20, prompting university officials to re-evaluate BU’s relationship with the scholarly group.

Boston University will not support the American Studies Association’s boycott on Israeli academic institutions, Brown stated in the letter.

“I am disappointed and concerned that the American Studies Association, invoking the principle of academic freedom, would vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions,” he said in the letter. “Research, teaching, and scholarship flourish through robust exchange of ideas, across borders and among institutions in different parts of the world.”

The American Studies Association announced its support for the boycott earlier in December as a form of protest against the treatment of Palestinians in Israel, confirmed BU spokesman Colin Riley. The boycott targets academic institutions but does not bar cooperation with individual Israeli scholars.

Brown stated in the letter that he hopes BU’s American & New England Studies Program, which carries an institutional membership to the ASA funded by the university, will reconsider its membership in the association.

“I do hope the faculty in the American & New England Studies Program will consider whether or not continuing membership in the ASA will create the opportunity for a temperate and thoughtful reconsideration of the wisdom of the boycott,” Brown said in the letter.

American & New England Studies Program Director Nina Silber said program leaders will reexamine the program’s affiliation with the ASA next semester.

“The American and New England Studies Program (AMNESP) will be discussing our institutional membership in the American Studies Association next semester,” Silber said in an email. “The subject will be on the agenda for our Program Committee, the leadership body for AMNESP.”

Two other American scholarly groups have backed the boycott, including the Association for Asian American Studies, Riley confirmed. However, the Association of American Universities, a major scholarly group to which BU belongs, has rejected the boycott.

Brown issued the letter in response to alumni and other university affiliates had contacted him asking about his position on the ASA’s boycott, Riley confirmed.

Brown also stated in the letter that it is unwise to use institutions of higher education as political tools.

“Universities and their faculties can often transcend even profound political differences,” Brown said in the letter. “It is ill-advised to make academic institutions the instrument with which to promote a political agenda by attempting to isolate students and scholars. Boston University cannot support this boycott.”

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