The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) just released a new report entitled, Campus Free Speech, Academic Freedom, and the BDS Movement. The report underscores that indeed much of the anti-Israel rhetoric we are witnessing today bleeds into anti-Semitism in addition, to questioning why Israel of all nations is accused of human rights violations.
Further, ACTA’s report cautions that disorderly conduct, anti-Semitic vandalism or physical assault related to BDS may expose universities to certain liabilities , and that limiting contact with Israeli academics and institutions could impede scientific progress.
Consequently, ACTA recommends governing boards do the following:
- Establish clear First Amendment policies, ensuring “that there are robust and highly publicized policies in place governing free speech. Define the boundaries between protest and disruption and establish severe sanctions for heckling invited speakers or preventing other students from attending scheduled events.”
- Look to national best practices concerning free expression, such as the University of Chicago principles of freedom of expression.
- Protect the institution’s political neutrality.
- Review the institution’s antidiscrimination policies. “While scrupulously protecting freedom of speech, including what Justice Holmes called ‘freedom for the thought we hate,’ exercise your own freedom to condemn anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.”
- While respecting academic freedom, “work with the president and provost to encourage departments and centers that address Middle Eastern affairs to ensure intellectually diverse views across a range of scholarly opinion.”
Finally, ACTA’s president Michael Poliakoff, notes that numerous countries, including, Turkey, have been accused of egregious violations of academic freedom and human rights (and yet there is no movement to boycott Turkey). So the singling out of Israel suggests something problematic about BDS at large.
As always, we welcome your feedback and article submissions.
Asaf Romirowsky, PhD