Goucher College announced its decision to reject the academic boycott of Israeli universities and colleges in a letter to the Goucher college community on Dec. 27.
As 2013 came to a conclusion, the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed an academic boycott of all Israeli universities and
colleges. The ASA, one of largest and oldest academic associations in the country, works to promote and encourage the study of learning and education across the country.
According to the association’s announcement, “The resolution is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.” They made the announcement because they believe Israel is responsible for “violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; [and] the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights,” as well as the majority vote to begin the boycott.
While Goucher is not a member of the ASA, the institution, like many colleges and universities across the country, decided to publicly announce their opposition to the boycott.
President Sanford Ungar sent out a letter cosigned by Provost Marc Roy to students and faculty explaining Goucher’s rejection of ASA’s boycott. In their letter, Ungar and Roy expressed their conception of the boycott as a threat to academic freedom.
“We will proudly continue to associate with all colleges and universities in Israel and everywhere else around the world where discussion is robust and open, and where Goucher students are welcomed for their study abroad,” they wrote.
Both Ungar and Roy also justified the choice to voice opposition to the association’s boycott by noting the difference between boycotting the Israeli government and Israeli schools.
“When the American Studies Association announced their boycott there were people everywhere disturbed because of its implications for what academics is all about,” Roy said in a separate interview. “Putting an academic boycott on the universities for what the government is doing makes no sense.”
If the college had decided to act in accordance with the boycott, even as a non-member of the ASA but still involved in their boycott, they may have had to limit students from participating in study abroad in Israel.
“Israeli academic institutions produce the highest number of publications per capita in the world – why shouldn’t [American] students benefit from this intellectual exchange that Israel’s 20% Arab minority receives?” said Ari Bornstien ’14, who spent his semester abroad in Israel.
According to the Provost, Goucher rejected the boycott not to take a political stance, but to be clearly non-political. Boycotting educational institutions in another country is contrary to what learning is all about, suggested Roy. He also noted that, as an academic institution, Goucher emphasizes refraining from political statements.
“The free exchange of ideas and mixing it with politics is improper,” the letter read.
Some students also feel strongly about the issue: “The ASA is trying to ostracize [Israeli studies and culture] that is really critical for students to learn and understand,” said Dani Meir-Levi ‘16, who has a twin sister currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces. “I’m really happy that Goucher realizes this.”