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U of Chicago Reaffirms Political Neutrality, Repudiates BDS in Response to Student Government Resolution

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avatar by Andrew Pessin

The University of Chicago. Photo: Wikipedia.

The University of Chicago. Photo: Wikipedia.

The University of Chicago (UC) released a statement Thursday repudiating divestment and academic boycotts against Israel on the basis of its official political neutrality. The statement came after the UC student government passed a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution Wednesday, as reported by The Algemeiner.

The statement reads, in part:

The University of Chicago will not divest from companies for doing business in Israel and opposes academic boycotts aimed at specific nations, including Israel.

The University does not take social or political stances on issues outside its core mission. Using investments or other means to advance a social or political position held by some segment of the University community would only diminish the University’s distinctive contribution – providing a home and environment for faculty and students to engage freely and openly on the widest range of issues. The Kalven Report outlines this approach and the values behind it, concluding that preserving the freedom of individual scholars to argue for or against any issue of political controversy requires “a heavy presumption against” collective political action by the University itself.

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The Kalven Report was commissioned by UC in 1967. According to the UC student newspaper, the report “promoted individual rights and free thinking and proclaimed an official University policy of neutrality regarding political and social issues.” It argued that in order to perform its mission, a university must “sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain its independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures,” according to the committee charged with drafting the report.

The UC statement concluded,

The University has been consistent in its opposition to proposed academic boycotts, issuing statements in 2007 and again in 2013. The University has from its founding held as its highest value the free and open pursuit of knowledge. Faculty and students must be free to pursue their research and education around the world, and to form collaborations both inside and outside the academy, encouraging engagement with the widest spectrum of views. For this reason, the University continues to strongly oppose boycotts of academic institutions or scholars in any region of the world, including recent actions to boycott Israeli institutions.

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