NEW YORK – The American Studies Association hosted a large pro-Boycott, Divest, Sanction at New York University from Friday night to Saturday evening, sparking a backlash from NYU students, who wrote a letter of protest to the school’s administration.
The letter, co-signed by 26 NYU students and student leaders from both the college Democrat and Republican groups, was hand delivered to NYU President John Sexton and to NYU faculty member and incoming ASA President Lisa Duggan.
The ASA-BDS event, which coincided with Israeli Apartheid Week in New York and was titled “Circuits of Influence: US, Israel and Palestine,” was not widely publicized and was closed to the press.
When a reporter from The Jerusalem Post tried to register as a civilian earlier in the week, she was told the conference was completely full. Flyers for the event cautioned: “Please do not post or circulate the flyer.
We are trying to avoid press, protesters and public attention.”
“We are immensely disappointed with both the nature of this event and how it has been met with complete silence from the NYU administration,” the letter said, citing the fact that invitations to the event were extremely selective and the event itself features only pro-BDS, anti-Israeli speakers.
The students condemned the fact that the event coincided – “almost to the minute” – with Shabbat, a move that the letter called “seemingly deliberate... to prevent the presentation of other views in this complex issue.”
“Our concern is that New York University, a global leader in education, is permitting the occurrence of an event that is antithetical to the principles that the global academic community stands for,” the letter said, “if anything, the university condones the event with the administration’s disconcerting silence... While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is indeed complex and deserves intense debate, hosting events that unequivocally reject and refuse to acknowledge dissenting opinions is an appalling gesture of intolerance.”
Citing the rejection of the ASA boycott by the US congress, the New York State Senate and over 200 universities and university presidents, the letter said: “Holding this event will indubitably diminish NYU’s stature as a global leader. The event will only lead to more conflict, not resolution.
“We respectfully ask that the administration begin to take a serious look at the upcoming event this weekend and the policies and practices of the ASA,” it said, “while the ASA is simply one organization, their actions are undermining not only the prospects for NYU to be a hub of constructive dialogue on campus, but also undermining our faith in NYU’s claims to be a global leader and a force for academic integrity.”
NYU President John Sexton responded to the letter with a letter of his own, reiterating that the NYU administration stood firmly against academic boycotts and opposed the current ASA boycott. But, he wrote, "the invocation of academic freedom is not a one-way street. ...the same set of principles that gives rise to my opposition to the boycott also causes me to stand up for the rights of our faculty to pursue their scholarship. This is true even in those instances when the ideas being examined are unpopular, or controversial, or at odds with the University's own position on a matter."...And so, NYU shall go forward in accordance with the principles of academic freedom, both rejecting the boycott of Israeli academics and institutions of higher learning, and supporting the right of our faculty to pursue their scholarship and academic activity."
Lisa Duggan did not respond.