Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spoken out against the forces of repression in the controversy over speakers supporting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Here’s his full statement:
Well look, I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS as they call it, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. As you know I’m a big supporter of Israel, as big a one as you can find in the city, but I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. I mean, if you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.
The last thing that we need is for members of our City Council or State Legislature to be micromanaging the kinds of programs that our public universities run, and base funding decisions on the political views of professors. I can’t think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students.
You know, the freedom to discuss ideas, including ideas that people find repugnant, lies really at the heart of the university system, and take that away and higher education in this country would certainly die.
Some of the gutless politicians in New York who first threatened Brooklyn College’s funding unless it banned controversial speakers have now issued another letter, pretending that they never endangered academic freedom at all.
It all shows that if there is the courage to strongly defend academic freedom from both outside and inside academia (as Brooklyn College and many others did), the advocates of censorship can be defeated.