Columbia University President Lee Bollinger challenged a British academic union’s boycott of Israeli colleges.
In two high-profile advertisements in The New York Times, hundreds of university presidents and Nobel Prize laureates have denounced a British academic union’s proposed boycott of Israeli colleges and faculty members.
In an advertisement sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, more than 300 presidents of American colleges and universities endorsed a statement by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and nine academic colleagues.
The statement said: "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."
University presidents and chancellors continue to sign onto the statement. "Given the fact that it is hard to reach university administrators during the summer season, the outpouring of support is little short of remarkable," wrote Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee David Harris in his blog. Presidents may join this action on the AJC’s Web site.
Hillel has previously condemned the proposed boycott by the British University and College Union (UCU). In a June statement, Hillel declared: “As the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, Hillel believes that this anti-intellectual action undermines the very definition of academic freedom and strikes at the root of the scholarly enterprise.”
In addition to the academic community, Elie Wiesel led a group of 56 fellow Nobel Prize laureates in publicly denouncing the UCU boycott in an August 5 New York Times ad. Other signatories include Peace Prize winners The Dalai Lama and Frederik W. de Klerk.
The ad states: “We, the undersigned Nobel Laureates, deplore the shameful proposal of the University and College Union to boycott contact and exchanges with Israeli educators and academic institutions. We also deplore a similar move by Unison and its 1.3 million public service employees. Not only do such boycotts pander to hardliners, they also glorify prejudice and bigotry. The cherished principle of academic freedom must not be undermined.”
JTA: Jews Divided on Response to British Boycott Threat
Inside Higher Ed: Academic Fallout From Middle East
New York Times Condemns Boycott
New York Jewish Week: Ramp Up On UK Boycott Seen As ‘Academic’