NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis has pledged noncooperation with the university’s study away site in Tel Aviv. The move was due to entry restrictions imposed by the Israeli government that have affected students and faculty, according to a press release sent to WSN.
“Faculty and student members of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis seek at all times to uphold this university’s basic principles of non-discrimination and equal opportunity in our relationships with other NYU departments and programs,” the resolution reads. “We feel that these principles, set forth in the Code of Ethical Conduct, are being effectively violated in the operation of NYU’s study abroad program in Tel Aviv.”
The SCA department is the first in the university to pledge noncooperation with NYU Tel Aviv. Other departments have previously severed ties with global sites. In 2017, the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute did so with NYU Abu Dhabi after one of its faculty members, Associate Professor Mohamad Bazzi, was denied entry to the United Arab Emirates. The SCA department decided not to include NYUAD in its boycott because the UAE has no publicly written laws that deny entry to certain populations.
“The Israeli state has singled itself out through its recent amendments to the Law of Entry, and through its consistent denial of access to those of Palestinian descent,” the resolution’s Q&A reads.
The Q&A section cites Israel’s Entry Into Israel Law that prohibits entry to those who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and instances in which those of Palestinian descent have been denied entry to the country. This law directly affects students involved in organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, and many SCA students are members of these organizations, according to the press release.
SCA Professor Andrew Ross said that the resolution falls in line with the principles of the department.
“[In] the courses that we teach in SCA there’s a lot of attention to trying to understand and identify the practices of racial, religious and political profiling,” Ross said. “This comes up again and again in classrooms, and how these practices are violations of civil liberties and democratic norms. So, it’s a very easy step from saying, ‘Look, this is what we teach in our classrooms to this is what we practice as a department.’”
The resolution is similar to a pledge signed by 30 student clubs in October 2018 that cited a law that bans supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement from entering the country. In March 2018, the Student Government Assembly passed a resolution calling for NYU to be more transparent in its protection of students traveling to the Tel Aviv campus.
In a statement to WSN, university spokesperson John Beckman said that the university does not support any boycott of Israel, but also expressed confusion over SCA’s vote to pledge noncooperation with NYU Tel Aviv.
“With respect to this departmental vote: it’s a little puzzling as to what form [noncooperation] would take, as our Tel Aviv campus does not draw on the department of social and cultural analysis for its academic program,” Beckman wrote.
According to the press release, the resolution was the culmination of a year-long effort by students within the department and lists SCA majors and CAS seniors Rose Asaf and Ben Zinevich as contacts. NYU Jewish Voice for Peace, of which Asaf serves as president, and Students for Justice in Palestine, of which Zinevich is a member, have been active in efforts for NYU to boycott Israel.
Last semester, Asaf and Zinevich were part of a group of student senators that pushed for a resolution inspired by the BDS movement. The resolution would have NYU divest from any companies complicit in human rights violations. In December 2018, the resolution passed in SGA, but before it could go to the University Senate, the university struck it down because of its ties to BDS. The resolution was then revised to exclude any mentions of Israel and Palestine but was narrowly rejected in the University Senate last week.
Unlike past initiatives in student government, the SCA department’s resolution states that noncooperation with NYU Tel Aviv is not tied to BDS because NYU Tel Aviv does not receive any public support or funding from Israel.
“No, since NYU-Tel Aviv is not an Israeli institution and does not depend on state funding,” the resolution’s Q&A reads. “Nor does the resolution appeal directly to the principles of the BDS movement.”
Ross hopes that other departments follow suit in boycotting NYU Tel Aviv.
“Who wants to be complicit [in] racial, religious, and political profiling?” Ross said. “It’s a highly moral position that the operation of the program is in violation of university ethical principles which are pretty clear. [The university’s Policy on Ethical Conduct] does prohibit discrimination. We should not have operations or programs that are in violation of that policy.”
Asaf and Zinevich declined a request for comment.
Email Meghna Maharishi and Victor Porcelli at [email protected]