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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

February 14, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

State’s college leaders oppose Israel boycott

Jewish Press staff report


USF President Judy Genshaft, top, and Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III, below, are among hundreds of higher education leaders throughout the nation who oppose calls for an academic boycott of Israel. Genshaft said it is “antithetical to the core values of academic freedom” and Eastman called the idea “silly.” USF President Judy Genshaft, top, and Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III, below, are among hundreds of higher education leaders throughout the nation who oppose calls for an academic boycott of Israel. Genshaft said it is “antithetical to the core values of academic freedom” and Eastman called the idea “silly.” A vote in mid-December by the American Studies Association (ASA) for an academic boycott of Israel has been roundly rejected by leaders of more than 200 universities nationwide, including University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft and a number of other university leaders in Florida.

The boycott resolution, approved by nearly two-thirds of those voting, cites the lack of “effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation” and describes Israeli universities as being “a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights and negatively impact the working conditions of Palestinian scholars and students.”

Presidents of the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Florida State University, University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University and Eckerd College have all rejected the boycott.

Genshaft called the boycott “antithetical to the core values of academic freedom and the open exchange of knowledge and ideas across institutions of higher education.”

She said she stood with other colleagues and organizations that “oppose this improper call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions” including the Association of American Universities, American Council on Education, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and American Association of University Professors.

Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III said, “One hesitates to respond to anything as silly as an academic boycott. For one academic institution to alienate another is antithetical to any notion of academic freedom, or frankly, education.”

He went on to highlight the vibrant Jewish life on the campus in south St. Petersburg, which in 2010 announced its intention to actively recruit Jewish students.

“As the enrollment of Jewish students at Eckerd College has grown, we have observed a surprising and inspiring impact on our students, Jew and non-Jew,” Eastman said. “At a recent Shabbat, which attracted more than 100 students, I talked with a young Jewish student who admitted she was there because her non-Jewish roommate had encouraged her to attend. Though she hadn’t been particularly devout before coming to college, she said her attendance at Shabbats, her Birthright trip and relationships with faculty and students at Eckerd had revealed to her important lessons about her history and herself. Those opportunities to explore, engage in self-discovery and share knowledge are fundamentally what an educational community – at Eckerd and beyond – should encourage.”

UCF President John Hitt denounced the call for a boycott and said, “An academic boycott would run counter to our university’s DNA.”

University of Miami President Donna Shalala called the boycott resolution “misguided, inappropriate, and hostile to the larger purposes of learning, academic freedom, and intellectual exchange – which are fundamental missions of American higher education.”

In December, when the ASA voted for a boycott, a number of educators explained why they supported the resolution.

“I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel,” said Cornell University Professor Eric Cheyfitz. “I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. … just as the myth of American exceptionalism seeks to erase the genocide and ongoing settler colonialism of Indigenous peoples here in the United States, so the myth of Israeli exceptionalism seeks to erase Israeli colonialism in Palestine and claim original rights to Palestinian lands.”

Malini Johar Schueller, a professor of English at the University of Florida, “This is what the ASA is about. The ASA has been interested in work on imperialism, settler colonialism, and it just seems logical that they supported this.”


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