Academics Voice Support for Social and Cultural Analysis Department’s Boycott of NYU Tel Aviv

After the university criticized the Social and Cultural Analysis Department’s boycott of NYU Tel Aviv, academics have come out in support of the department.

Trees line the beach at Tel Aviv's waterfront. (Staff Photo by Julia McNeill)

Multiple groups of academics have written two different letters of support for the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis’ boycott of NYU Tel Aviv that started last week.

NYU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to NYU President Andrew Hamilton voicing support for the SCA department’s right to boycott the global site.

“We strongly support the right of individual departments and schools to determine their own affairs and how they deploy their resources vis-a-vis the University’s global academic network,” the letter reads.

The AAUP letter criticized the university’s statement against the SCA department’s noncooperation with NYU Tel Aviv, supporting the department’s freedom to do so. NYU’s statement had condemned the boycott and cited the AAUP’s own stance on academic boycotts — that boycotts are antithetical to academic freedom.

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“We deplore this uncollegial and pointless effort to stigmatize the Tel Aviv program, as well as the students and faculty who study there,” the university statement reads.

The AAUP letter said that the university misconstrued the SCA department’s resolution.

“We find the mischaracterization by the University spokesperson of the SCA resolution as a call for an academic boycott to be inflammatory and dangerous to faculty members at NYU,” the AAUP letter reads.

In a statement to WSN, university spokesperson John Beckman said that the university stands by its statement. Beckman also said that the SCA department’s claim that the university has been silent when NYU Abu Dhabi was criticized is also false.

“The claim made by proponents of the SCA vote — that NYU was silent on the earlier vote regarding NYUAD — is false,” Beckman said. “President Hamilton argued against that action at the time.”

Another letter was from Israeli organization Academia for Equality, a group which advocates for Palestinian human rights and academic freedom for Palestinian academics in Israel.

“We applaud your resolution of non-cooperation as a non-violent way of expressing solidarity with Palestinian students and academics denied the right to education, and with academics in Israel whose academic freedom is under ‘collateral’ threat,’” the letter reads.

SCA was the first department to pledge noncooperation with NYU Tel Aviv. The resolution the department passed cited Israel’s Entry Into Israel Law, which denies entry to people who have publicly called for a boycott of the country. According to the resolution, this law affects students who are active in organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. Many students involved in these organizations are affiliated with the SCA department, according to the resolution.

Academia for Equality representative Matan Kaminer said the organization decided to write the letter out of concern that NYU students could be denied entry to Israel because of their ethnicity.

It’s not a matter of different laws or ideologies, but of discrimination and violation of human rights,” Kaminer said. “An NYU student who happens to be of Muslim or Arab descent and who wants to participate in an academic program in Israel or the Palestinian territories can expect to be humiliated at Ben Gurion Airport. I don’t see how any academic institution can accept such discriminatory treatment of its students and such violations of their basic rights.”’

No NYU students have been denied entry to study abroad at NYU Tel Aviv.

Shortly after the SCA department announced its boycott of NYU Tel Aviv, NYU Chaplain Rabbi Yehuda Sarna created a petition condemning the move. The petition garnered nearly 4,000 signatures from faculty, students, alumni and others.

SCA Professor Andrew Ross told WSN that Sarna’s petition was a mischaracterization of the SCA department’s aims in its boycott of NYU Tel Aviv.

“Those who actually read the resolution will see it is aimed at upholding NYU’s Code of Ethical Conduct regarding nondiscrimination and equal opportunity,” Ross said. “In light of that policy, departments have a moral obligation, and a right, to withdraw their cooperation from programs whose operations are tainted by racial, religious and political profiling.”

Kaminer said the SCA department said they will pursue cooperation with NYU Tel Aviv once Israel revises its laws.

“The SCA statement is clear that when Israel rescinds its racist and discriminatory policies, which do not benefit students or faculty in any way, then it will reconsider its cooperation with the program,” Kaminer said. “That really seems to me like the win-win scenario that we should all be shooting for.”

Update, May 10: This article was updated to include a statement from university spokesperson John Beckman.

Email Meghna Maharishi at [email protected]

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