U.S. Colleges Declare: "Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!"

August 8, 2007 – New York – College and university presidents across the United States are signing on to a statement by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger denouncing the decision by the union representing British academics to promote a boycott of Israeli educational institutions.

The full list of presidents to date was published today by the American Jewish Committee in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times. Other presidents joining the initiative are being added to a list on the AJC website.

"Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!" is the call of the nearly 300 college and university presidents who have endorsed Bollinger's powerful statement, released shortly after the United Kingdom's University and College Union shamefully passed a boycott resolution at its conference in May.

The appeal to U.S. college and university presidents to follow Bollinger's example came from eight of their colleagues: Jehuda Reinharz, president, Brandeis University; Robert J. Birgeneau, chancellor, University of California, Berkeley; Richard Herman, chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Donna E. Shalala, president, University of Miami; Henry S. Bienen, president, Northwestern University; Graham B. Spanier, Pennsylvania State University; Lawrence S. Bacow, president, Tufts University; M. Lee Pelton, Willamette; and, Harold Shapiro, president emeritus, Princeton University.

AJC shares the concerns of the presidents who have signed the statement to date, and is facilitating distribution of the list of presidents who have publicly endorsed Bollinger's statement, which is reproduced below:

"As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain's new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.

"At Columbia I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate – as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their government's policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education."

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