2 American universities withdraw from American Studies Association over Israel boycott

Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg discontinue institutional affiliation with organization, condemn academic boycott.

Israel boycott 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel boycott 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two American universities, Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg, have decided this week to withdraw from the American Studies Association in protest of the organization’s decision to join the academic boycott against Israeli universities.
“It is with deep regret that we in the American Studies Program at Brandeis University have decided to discontinue our institutional affiliation with the American Studies Association,” a message on the university’s American Studies program said.
The program views the ASA vote to affirm the academic boycott of Israel “as a politicization of the discipline and a rebuke to the kind of open inquiry that a scholarly association should foster.”
“We remain committed to the discipline of American Studies but we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture – freedom of association and expression,” the Brandeis statement continued.
Dr. Simon J. Bronner of Penn State Harrisburg also issued a statement, saying that the ASA resolution to boycott Israel “curtails academic freedom and undermines the reputation of American Studies as a scholarly enterprise.”
As a result, the American Studies program at Penn State Harrisburg announced it would drop its institutional membership and will “encourage others to do so.”
Dr. Bronner, the chair of the American Studies program at the Pennsylvania university, is a prominent member of the ASA, and serves as the editorin- chief of the Encyclopedia of American Studies, an ASA-sponsored publication.
“The withdrawal of institutional membership by our program and others allows us to be independent of the political and ideological resolutions issued by the ASA and concentrate on building American Studies scholarship with our faculty, students, and staff,” Dr. Bronner said in an additional statement to website Legal Insurrection.
In the run-up to the vote, former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers said academic boycotts were “abhorrent,” adding that he hopes universities reconsider their ties to the ASA following such a vote.
“My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their universities’ funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association bur really more of a political tool,” he told Charlie Rose.
He added that the fact Israel is singled out, despite the fact other countries are accused of having human right abuses or inappropriate foreign policies as well, is “beyond outrageous.”
The leadership of the much larger and more influential American Association of University Professors wrote an open letter earlier this month saying it was disappointed by the ASA decision and that it rejected boycotts.
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) also decided to join the academic boycott against Israel earlier this week.
Ohio State English Prof. Chadwick Allen, president of the association and coordinator of American Indian studies at the university, wrote on the association’s website that the move followed a “member- generated” petition asking that the group “formally support the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions that was initiated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.”
The Association for Asian American Studies adopted the boycott in April.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.