More Major University Heads in Canada Issue Anti-Boycott Statements

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Compiled by Clive Seligman, Ph.D., President, Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship
www.safs.ca

Statement by Concordia University President, Claude Lajeunesse, concerning the proposed boycott of Israeli universities by the United Kingdom’s University and College Union (UCU)

The fundamental mission of universities, and of the academics working in these institutions, is the free exchange of information, ideas and knowledge, unfettered by dogmas, religion or politics. It is through this kind of collegial discourse that the pursuit of knowledge advances and both individual societies and humanity progress.

I am quite concerned by a proposed boycott of Israeli universities being considered by the British University and College union. As a university president and an academic, I say with full conviction that this boycott attacks the very nature of academia, and it must be denounced.

Scholars must have the freedom to collaborate, regardless of borders or political systems. Therefore, I join a number of my colleagues in North America and Europe, in demanding that our British university colleagues repeal their boycott decision. Concordia does not, and will not tolerate, politically orchestrated attempts to control the mission of higher education. Concordia University joins the growing ranks of institutions condemning this proposed UCU boycott action.

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Dalhousie University:
Statement on possible boycott of Israeli universities

June 27, 2007,
Freedom of inquiry and expression, central values of universities around the world, are meaningless without freedom of association. The proposed boycott of Israeli universities under review by Britain’s University and College Union (UCU) represents a gross violation of these essential notions. A tiny fraction of the UCU.s 120,000 members, by a vote of 158 to 99, have raised concerns which merit strong condemnation.

Universities do not have foreign policies and they must assert their right always to be independent of government dictates in the name of short term political agendas. Individual scholars must be free to pursue their research and their ideas with colleagues freely chosen across the world. Ironically, the UCU.s leader recently rejected a proposed British government invitation to tackle violent extremism, urging its members to oppose government attempts to restrict academic freedom or free speech on campus. Lecturers want to teach students. If they wanted to police them, they would have joined the force.. The suggestion that British professors should boycott universities and scholars from other countries surely sits poorly with this sentiment.

Faculty, staff and students at Dalhousie University have a network of global relationships with counterparts who come from diverse social, political and ideological environments. These relationships persist despite such differences because of our common commitment to the open exchange of ideas, a basic freedom that is central to all learning and discovery.

Tom Traves
President and Vice-Chancellor

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Statement by Gilles Patry,
President and Vice-Chancellor,
University of Ottawa

OTTAWA, June 26, 2007

Gilles Patry, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa, joins other Canadian and international university presidents in condemning the threatened boycott of Israeli universities proposed by the British University and College Union.

This boycott goes against the fundamental university values of freedom of expression and free circulation of ideas,? said President Patry. To attempt to limit the ability of Israeli universities to freely engage in scholarship and teaching with other sister institutions in the world is attacking all universities at their core mission. Acts of exclusion, such as those proposed by the British University and College Union, will only further exacerbate existing tensions.? Patry added, I urge my fellow British university colleagues to oppose this potentially disastrous and deplorable move. Scholarly understanding and free academic exchange and expression can only contribute to a peaceful resolution of conflicts.

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University of Western Ontario:
Statement on possible boycott of Israeli universities

The boycott of Israeli universities being considered by Britain’s University and College Union (UCU) has filled me with profound dismay and disbelief. Over the last century universities have sought to establish academic freedom as a fundamental value in democratic society, and have fought to protect that freedom from restrictions imposed by government and the greater society. It is tragic to see a group of academics themselves undermining academic freedom by seeking to condemn and isolate a group of faculty because of the country in which they live.

Western will continue to encourage its faculty and students to exchange ideas and promote understanding with all the peoples and countries of the world. That exchange of ideas is at the heart of education, research, and the University’s contribution to society. Scholars and students from Israel and all other countries will always be welcome on our campus.

The UCU website informs us that the vote on the motion was 155 for, 99 against, with 17 abstentions. The UCU has over 100,000 members, and it is to be hoped that the great majority will reject the boycott as a shameful violation of academic freedom.

Dr. Paul Davenport
President and Vice-Chancellor

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York University
President’s Statement on the autonomy of universities
June, 2007

From time to time universities across the world come under pressure to boycott the universities and academics of a particular nation, for one reason or another. Currently, for example, some UK academics are proposing a boycott of Israeli universities. Often, the rationale proposed for such action is to oppose the politics or practices of another nation state by isolating its academics.

This is a fundamental misconception on two levels. First, that universities are or should be an arm of their national government is a direct threat to academic freedom and should be opposed on principle. Second, the idea that individual universities should operate some kind of academic foreign policy is anathema to everything that, as academics, we stand for. Universities are not governments operating global policies but academic communities of scholars free to communicate with other academics across the globe in the pursuit of their academic goals.

Finally, the idea that one group of academics should dictate to another group which academics they are permitted to communicate with is something that needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history forthwith.

At York, we stand firm for the autonomy of universities from government and the freedom of our scholars, scientists and artists to pursue their own academic goals unfettered by the dogmatism of others.

Lorna R. Marsden, C.M., Ph.D.
President and Vice-Chancellor

More Major University Heads in Canada Issue Anti-Boycott Statements

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SPME

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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