JHU president, provost issue statement on ASA boycott of Israeli universities

Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Robert C. Lieberman released a statement Monday to university faculty, staff, and students regarding the American Studies Association boycott of Israeli universities.

The statement from Daniels and Lieberman, in full:

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff:

The American Studies Association voted recently to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Two other organizations of scholars have announced similar boycotts. We are writing to express our views on this issue.

Johns Hopkins stands for the belief that we will advance the human condition through dialogue rather than isolation, and the dissemination of knowledge rather than its restriction. An academic boycott is, thus, an affront to principles that this university cherishes. To curtail the freedom of institutions to participate in the exchange of ideas because of the policies of the government of the country where they reside is to strike at the very mission of our university. The ASA tries to defend the boycott on the ground that it applies formally to Israeli universities rather than individual faculty, but of course, this neglects the profound impact such a ban will have on the scholars who form the intellectual heart and participate actively in the academic life and governance of those universities.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, of course, a complex matter on which many in our community hold passionate and competing views. We can all agree, however, that one essential ingredient to the resolution of that conflict will be the free exchange of information and open debate of ideas. This boycott is a contradiction, one that threatens what it purports to protect: the freedom of thought and expression that is the heartbeat of our academic community.

We therefore reject the ASA's efforts to impose a boycott on institutions of higher education in Israel, or any other nation. For the same reasons, although Johns Hopkins is not an institutional member of the American Studies Association, we also reject calls to boycott the boycotters, or to dissociate from the Association or other organizations of scholars as an expression of protest against their votes.

We fully expect that members of our community will, in the finest traditions of our university, continue to give voice to their ideas and convictions. We oppose closing off avenues for fellow scholars in another nation to do the same.

Last week, the 5,000-member association, the nation's oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, voted to support an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions to protest Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Nearly two-thirds of the 1,252 votes cast by the ASA's members were in support of the boycott resolution.

Since then, the boycott has been rejected and criticized by dozens of U.S. colleges and universities and by two major associations of institutions of higher education, the Association of American Universities and the Association of American University Professors.