The New York State Senate passed a bill on Tuesday, January 28 that would deny state funding to colleges and universities that give funds to entities that support boycotts of Israel and 3 other countries. A virtually identical bill will be considered in the State Assembly's Higher Education Committee on Monday, February 3rd - CALL NY ASSEMBLY MEMBERS NOW! See the Jewish Voice for Peace Action Alert here and below.
See CCR and NLG-NYC's press release and letter to Assembly Members here and below.
Make your voice heard today, Monday Feb. 3rd.
Help stop passage of a bill in the NY State Assembly that will stifle free speech and academic freedom!A bill targeting the American Studies Association (ASA) because it passed a resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israel has been passed in the NY State Senate and is being fast-tracked in the Assembly. If this becomes law it would prohibit public universities and colleges from using any taxpayer money on groups that support boycotts of Israel. Just as dangerous, this law will lay the groundwork for other attempts to silence debate and opposition on other controversial issues.
We have learned that today, Monday, the proposed legislation will move through three Assembly committees. They could even try to bring it to a vote in the full Assembly before they adjourn for the day.
Three key members of the Assembly need to hear from as many people as possible, and these calls need to be made this morning.
And if you can make a third call, call Herman "Denny" Farrell, the chair of the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee: 518-455-5491. If his phone is busy, try again. You can also email him by clicking here.
TELL YOUR REPS: I want this bill defeated because it undermines a time-honored method of effecting social and political change - from the segregated South to South Africa! The rush to push this bill through without any public discussion must be stopped. A commitment to democracy means our representatives should at least convene a public hearing before any votes are taken.
For more background and talking points, click here.
TALKING POINTS RE: NYS ANTI-BOYCOTT LEGISLATION Jan. 31, 2014
What the Legislation Passed by the NY State Senate Says "No college in this state may use state aid provided directly to such college to: fund an academic entity, provide funds for membership in an academic entity or fund travel or lodging for any employee to attend any meeting of such academic entity if such entity has issued a public resolution or other official statement or undertaken an official action boycotting a host country or higher education institutions located in such country."A “host country” is defined as a country in which there is a higher education institution chartered by the NYS Board of Regents. Thus, the prohibition applies only to boycotts against academic institutions in Israel, Hungary, Lebanon, and the Czech Republic.If this legislation becomes law, no college may provide funds for any employee to pay for membership in, or for travel or lodging to attend a meeting of any organization of professors that has issued a resolution boycotting a higher education institution in Iasrael. In other words, the legislation would prohibit a faculty member from getting funds to travel to an American Studies Association (ASA) meeting, even if that meeting is unrelated to the boycott, or the professor herself is opposed to the boycott. If a college violates the prohibition it loses all public funds for that academic year. This applies to public and private universities that receive state funds.
Why We Oppose the Legislation; Why We Are Calling on Members of the NY State Assembly to Vote NO on this Legislation 1. Advocacy in support of a boycott, like all advocacy, is a constitutionally protected form of expression. While such advocacy may be controversial, the First Amendment is a bulwark against government censorship of controversial speech.2. It has been more than 60 years since this legislature sought to prohibit advocacy on any subject or for any point of view. To do so now will return us to the days of McCarthyism, when colleges and universities became places of fear and suspicion, and when vigorous and contentious debate was replaced by a demand for conformity.3. Advocacy of boycotts – and the boycotts themselves - played a substantial role in changing discriminatory policies in the American south and in South Africa, to say nothing of strengthening labor struggles throughout our country. Advocacy of boycotts by activist students and faculty has a long and honorable place in U.S. history. The NY State legislature should not be on record as suggesting that advocacy of such an effective means for promoting peaceful change is somehow illegitimate.
4. Public universities are a critical resource for poor and working-class New Yorkers -- and silencing speech in those institutions by using tax dollars as leverage is a particular assault on the speech and freedom of those who rely on public education.
About the Boycott in Relation to this Legislation 1. It is charged that the boycott violates academic freedom. However, the boycott of universities funded by the Israeli government is directed at the institutional policies themselves, and not at faculty members of those institutions, which is the central concern of academic freedom. As the AAUP has said, " Academic freedom is meaningless if it does not protect those who support unpopular positions, including the advocacy of academic boycotts."2. The boycott of Israeli universities makes no mention of any religious group, and, despite claims of this bill’s supporters to the contrary, does not violate any laws against religious or ethnic discrimination. (https://www.ccrjustice.org/files/FAQonLegalityofBoycott_1.10.14_FINAL_SH.pdf)
3. Sponsors of these bills say that singling out Israeli academic institutions amounts to anti-Semitism and constitutes discrimination. This is false. To equate criticism of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism is as absurd as claiming a boycott of Saudi Arabia for its human rights record is Islamophobic or that criticism of the Chinese occupation of Tibet is hateful against people of Chinese ethnicity.