NYU President Calls Tel Aviv Boycott Vote ‘Regrettable’

May 10, 2019
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New York University (NYU) President Andrew Hamilton and Board of Trustees chair William Berkley called the university’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) vote to boycott the Tel Aviv study abroad program “regrettable” in a letter obtained by the Journal.

The SCA passed a resolution May 2 calling for “non-cooperation” with the program until Israel ends its “longstanding practice of barring entry to persons of Palestinian descent.”

The May 8 letter, which was first reported by the Jewish Week, begins by acknowledging the SCA’s right to voice their opinions on the Israel-Palestinian conflicts, their vote is “at odds both with a key tenet of academic freedom – the free exchange of ideas” and that the university is “fully committed” to the Tel Aviv program.

“The ‘pledge of non-cooperation’ by SCA – in essence, a boycott – is in conflict with all of this, and, as such, is deplorable,” Hamilton and Berkley wrote. “It seeks to exclude, rather than include. It commits to disengagement, rather than engagement. It targets colleagues because they work in a particular country, in this case, Israel. By ostracizing those associated with NYU Tel Aviv, it not only undermines the principle of the free exchange of ideas, so vital and fundamental to our academic enterprise, it also seems sure to have a chilling effect on the spirit of open inquiry we expect faculty to foster in the classroom. Followed to its conclusion, this kind of ostracism could cause wholesale disruption of our academic community — the free exchange of ideas will mean little if groups refuse to engage one another.”

They concluded the letter by asking the department “to reconsider this regrettable vote.”

Adela Cojab, the student leading a legal complaint against NYU over giving an award to NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, told the Journal in a Facebook post, “It’s great to see the NYU Administrators and Trustees stand so strongly against SCA’s boycott and especially appreciate their recognition of the effect it has the classroom— perhaps the first time NYU formally acknowledges depleted student experience at the hands of anti-normalcy.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member, Daniel Pearl Foundation president and NYU alumnus, tweeted:

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