New Proactive Strategies Are Necessary To Defeat Academic BDS

As a veteran of the academic BDS struggle, I am encouraged by the coming together of several academically-oriented groups to combat BDS. The narrow margin of victory against academic BDS in the American Anthropological Association has demonstrated to the faculty world wide that while BDS is seen as antithetical to academic freedom, there are still growing powerful threats that drain academics of their primary missions to generate new knowledge and research and to share that with colleagues, while teaching students to think critically and productively.

There is also a growing threat of faculty members hijacking academic association agendas to make political statements, now being challenged legally within these associations with the actions of senior members of the American Studies Association bringing legal action against their association for engaging in professional activities unrelated to the corporate charter of the association. These actions are both crippling intellectually and financially to the primary purposes of these organizations as their missions are hijacked.

If ever there was a time for grass-roots faculty to speak out against these actions, it is now. As academic institutions and associations become more steeped in this movement, there is less focus on academic excellence and more focus on politicization. It is time for academics to tell their institutions that BDS resolutions are antithetical to academic freedom and have no place being efforted in faculty governance councils and academic associations. Statements and principles adopted by the American Association of University Professors (reaffirmed over time) and many Nobel Laureates in response to BDS are well established and should be affirmed in such proactive resolutions.

Colleges, universities and academic associations must adopt, as a matter of policy that BDS resolutions are antithetical to academic freedom and have no place in academic discourse. Faculty members may engage in whatever political activity they desire in venues outside the academy, but there is no place for academic BDS with institutional or association venues. BDS resolution will not be allowed be introduced into governance and administrative structure and that such efforts could well be subject to institutional or association standards as a matter of policy.

The fact of the matter is all colleges, universities, faculties and academic associations have policies which govern conduct within the context of the affiliation. Often policies are quite specific with governing behaviors that deviate from the mission, goals and expected conduct by virtue of that affiliation with sanctions for violating them. If a student violates a code of conduct within a university, they can be dismissed. If a university administration takes a public stance that BDS activity will not be tolerated at that university, but faculty are actively engaging in BDS activity from their university subsidized facilities, what kind of a message is that sending? Unfortunately this is happening, with impugnity, throughout the country as administrations issue strong anti-BDS statements and yet turn a blind eye to faculty members in the institutions employ who are leading BDS activity either in the institution or in their professional association. As a result, there needs to be a movement from within the faculty to say that this is not an institutionally accepted behavior and such resolutions will not be processed within the institution or organization and that engagement in such activity could be actionable if found in violation of either policy or law.

Though I am retired and sans institutional affiliation, I shall be renewing my academic/professional association affiliation and working with both senior and junior faculty in the faculty division of our association to draft such a resolution to take through the governance association first through the division and then hopefully through the entire association. It is a fight where I expect much opposition with a bit of noise. I may not get to see the final victory, but not starting the effort as a proactive measure only makes it a matter of time before it becomes a reactive activity for our members. BDS is practice that is steeped in bigotry, bias and hatred and not designed to bring justice and understanding. In fact, just the opposite is the goal. It only shuts down freedom of speech and efforts towards peace and justice, very often from some of the very advocates in academia who desire such peace and justice. It is a debilitating and crippling practice and an enemy to all who seek justice and peace.

About the Author
Retired College Professor (Walden University and Penn State University), President Emeritus and Co-Founder Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Professional and Community Leader. Writer, Blogger, Academic Activist. Residing in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.
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