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July 2, 2021 5:02 pm
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400 New York University Affiliates Join Faculty Group in Boycott of Tel Aviv Campus

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The New York University campus. Photo: Cincin12, via Wiki Commons.

An open letter signed by hundreds of New York University (NYU) affiliates calls for “non-cooperation” with the NYU Tel Aviv campus, an effort rejected by a school spokesperson as “at odds with the tenets of academic freedom.”

Originally issued on May 21 by the group Faculty of Color for an Anti-Racist NYU, the Statement of Solidarity with Palestine from NYU Community was circulated on Medium on June 17, and invited NYU faculty members, students and other community members to join.

The letter’s signatories now include over 100 faculty members; groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, the Black Student Union and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee; and several hundred students, including about 140 at the NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus who signed anonymously.

Said the letter, “We pledge non-cooperation with the Tel Aviv program until the Israeli state ceases its military campaign and takes action to end discriminatory policies that limit Palestinian student’s access to education.”

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The signatories said they would refrain from faculty collaborations and stop engaging with NYU’s study abroad program in Israel.

In a May 25 statement, NYU’s chief spokesperson John Beckman said the school “thoroughly rejects” the boycott petition.

“Such a boycott is at odds with the tenets of academic freedom,” Beckman said. “Academic freedom rests, in large part, upon the principle of free exchange of ideas. Ostracizing colleagues or programs in this way flies in the face of that principle, and it suppresses free speech and debate, precisely the opposite of a university’s mission.”

He said the proposal discriminated against members of the NYU community due to their national setting, and said the school found “the effort to repudiate engagement regrettable and misguided.”

On May 27, the NYU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) disagreed with the university’s position, saying, “Faculty and staff are appealing directly to the principles of academic freedom when they adopt such positions publicly, and it is the obligation of university administrations to acknowledge and defend their speech rights without any implication of a rebuke or censure.”

The NYU Tel Aviv satellite has drawn the ire of faculty groups before. In May 2019, the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) passed a similar non-cooperation resolution, accusing Israel of operating “in the shadow of racial, religious, and political profiling.”

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