Last week President Mark Burstein and the Provost and Dean of Faculty, Dave Burrows, issued a joint statement opposing the recent boycott of Israeli academic institutions by groups like the American Studies Association (ASA) and Association for Asian American Studies. In their statement, they stressed the importance of the exchange of ideas and “the freedom to speak what we think and to listen thoughtfully to one another,” concurring with over 100 other American universities including Princeton, Yale and Columbia in rejecting the boycott.
This directly responded to the ASA justification of their boycott, where they cited discrimination against Palestinian students, multiple human rights violations and the lack of academic freedom Palestinian students experience under Israeli occupation. This message, however, was lost due to the outrage over the boycott as the means of raising the issue.
Condemning Israel for its treatment of Palestinian students and educators is valid, but fighting fire with fire should never be the first solution any group decides upon. By ceasing academic cooperation with all Israeli institutions, the ASA enacted policies similair to some of the ones they are boycotting. They should have pushed for a more honest conversation through newspaper, or publications about the policies enacted by Israel, rather than issuing an ineffective and insulting boycott .
By encouraging open communication, the ASA would be expanding the dialogue throughout educational institutions and spreading awareness of what they believe are injustices. In situations filled with hot-button issues, respectful communication is key. It keeps the public conversation on the issue, rather than on how it was brought up.