On Monday, the ASUC Senate’s External and University Committee indefinitely tabled SB 11, “A Bill in Support of the Free Flow of Ideas and International Academic Collaboration.” As an author of the bill, I am dismayed that ASUC senators were unwilling to stand up for the principles upon which our university was founded.
The pursuit of knowledge is universal. It crosses national boundaries and transcends political divides. Collaboration among scholars and institutions internationally has historically been and still is an integral part of the advancement of society and the betterment of our world.
Yet, a small but vocal group has called to boycott international academic collaboration between Israel and the U.S. It is calling for — among other things — a complete, unconditional ban on research and conferences with Israeli academic institutions and on study-abroad programs in Israel.
The success of this academic boycott would mean the hindrance of global academic, medical, technological and societal advancement. The boycott called for, furthermore, does not distinguish between political parties or policy stances — it only discriminates by nationality, making it an especially egregious offense against progress in the world. There is no justification imaginable for clamping and silencing research and ideas based on their nation of origin.
That is why we put forward our bill. Of course, we did not and will not call for the administration to take away the right to speak freely, assemble, associate or demonstrate. Our goal is not to silence the concerns of others but to express our own, where it is justified.
We want to join a chorus of academic umbrella organizations such as the American Association of University Professors, with more than 48,000 members, and the leaders of nearly 300 universities across the country who have publicly rejected boycotts of this kind, including Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.
Our bill was also in line with the ASUC’s past support of academic collaboration. In 2005, the senate passed a bill supporting all study abroad programs. And in 2007, they passed a bill specifically supporting study-abroad programs in Israel.
This senate class, however, has apparently broken away from our strong tradition of supporting academic collaboration and has done so in a way that demonstrates its disinterest in hearing the voices of particular student communities.
Our bill should not have been controversial. Yet, even controversial bills demand discussion and debate in general meetings where all senators are present and can vote. Given what happened in the committee, our bill will likely never reach that stage.
Every year, the senate pays lip service to the benefits of discussion, debate and collaboration. Actions, however, speak louder than words, and this senate class has now shown that they would prefer not to discuss arguments that make them feel uncomfortable, even when those arguments reiterate the fundamental ideals of the university they attend.
Despite what happened Monday, we will not shy away from spreading our message. We are calling on all students to join us in a study-in demonstration on Sproul today, Sept. 23, to show that we stand for academic freedom and the free flow of ideas and against discrimination.
Michaela Fried is the president of Tikvah, a campus club that advocates Zionism.