Whatever you might think of the American Studies Association’s stance on boycotting Israel, the attempted legal “remedies” have to be seen as worse. Pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel, or a pox on both houses… it shouldn’t matter. The implications for academic freedom carried in the various bills should bother anyone who cares about this great tradition of our universities.
The “Protect Academic Freedom Act,” jointly filed by House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.) could serve as a deterrent to other groups considering Israeli boycotts.
It would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 “to prohibit an institution that participates in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars from being eligible” to receive federal funds, according to text of the legislation.
In a bizarre reversal of logic, Roskam claims that “This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts.” Follow this logic and you will eventually come up with an Orwellian “freedom is slavery.”
Perhaps Roskam needs to be reminded of what Harry Hellenbrand recently wrote:
A speech code tries to regulate speech. Academic freedom, though, implies that speech, as a dialogic activity, is self-regulating and self-correcting.
In academic freedom, as in freedom of speech, we need to trust in the process instead of in regulation. Only by letting freedom be can freedom exist.