AAUP@FHSU


Redefinitions of Anti-Semitism and Racism?

We issued a statement today condemning recent political attempts to restrict teaching that critically examines the history and policies of the state of Israel and the United States. In the first case, legislation redefines antisemitism to include political criticism of the state of Israel. In the second, legislation redefines critical analysis of the history of slavery and its legacies in US society as being itself racially discriminatory against whites. In both cases these draconian initiatives paint robust academic inquiry as dangerous and contradict the purpose of higher education to serve the common good.

Such legislation imposes extreme unjustified restrictions on faculty speech and academic freedom. “While the growth of antisemitism is a severe threat, it can and should be addressed under existing civil rights laws as religious or race discrimination,” the statement reads. “These new laws, however, expand the definition of antisemitism to encompass political speech.” Such overbroad definitions, as in a 2019 Florida law, “constitute a state-imposed orthodoxy that prohibits or discourages faculty members and students from engaging in academic work that may question the state’s positions on Israel or Zionism.” Similarly, legislative restrictions on curriculum about race and racism in the US constitute political interference designed to curb critical analysis and free inquiry about the history and nature of systemic racism.

The AAUP urges the defeat of these legislative initiatives and others like them in order to protect the academic freedom that is vital to the preservation of democracy.

The full statement: Legislative Threats to Academic Freedom: Redefinitions of Antisemitism and Racism, can be found here.

In solidarity,
Charles Toombs, San Diego State University
Chair of AAUP’s committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (Committee A)


AAUP Opposes University Litmus Tests

AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure released the following statement calling on public universities to not require speakers and others to pledge that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse a specific political movement.

“According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, at least seventeen states have passed legislation imposing punitive measures against supporters of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) with regard to Israel. As a result, some public universities in those states have begun to require that external speakers invited to campus and others who contract with these universities, such as external reviewers of tenure and promotion materials, sign a statement pledging that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse BDS.

The American Association of University Professors does not endorse BDS. We take no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor on calls for divestment or economic sanctions. But we oppose all academic boycotts, including an academic boycott of Israel, on the grounds that such boycotts violate the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas for which our organization has stood for over one hundred years. We believe that academic freedom ought not to be subordinated to political exigency; there will always be compelling political causes that will challenge the ideal of free and open scholarly exchange.

It is precisely for this reason that our opposition to BDS is matched as resolutely by our opposition to these pledges, which are nothing short of an attempt to limit freedom of speech and belief. Indeed, they conjure the specter of loyalty and disclaimer oaths, mainstays of McCarthyism. The right of individuals to engage in political boycotts, and to come together collectively to support a boycott, has a long and storied history in American civil protests. At colleges and universities especially, where reasoned disagreement and debate should be the order of the day, demands that faculty and students forswear support for a peaceful protest are repugnant.

At a time when there is widespread interest in making sure that speakers on all points of the political spectrum are able to make themselves heard on American campuses, the contradiction in seeking to ban advocates of this particular position is obvious and unacceptable. We, therefore, call on all institutions of higher education in the United States to challenge the required renunciation of BDS and uphold freedom of speech and belief for all members of the academic community.”

The AAUP also sent a letter to the Israeli government this week in regard to the interrogation, subsequent expulsion, and apparent banning from Israel of Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke in April of this year. Franke, a supporter of BDS, was expelled from Israel when attempting to visiting Israel in her capacity as a scholar and civil rights leader, not as a supporter of BDS. We believe such actions have grave implications for international academic exchange and are urging the Israeli government to reconsider the expulsion and to revoke any further ban on Professor Franke’s entry for purposes of collaborative academic and scholarly work in Israel.

The link to the statement and letter can be found here.

Thank you,
Henry Reichman, Chair, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure