IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED Attack on Academic Freedom Gains New Momentum in Illinois General Assembly

 Credit: Bryan MacCormack

Credit: Bryan MacCormack

Illinois Residents!: Submit Your Opposition and Make Calls TODAY!

There is a new, dangerous challenge to academic freedom in Illinois.  While we were able to mobilize opposition to Senate Bill 3017, its sponsor, Senator Ira Silverstein, has introduced a toxic resolution, SJR 59, which is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, April 1 at 4 p.m. in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

·         Academics and other educators should be outraged that the resolution calls on college and university administrators to condemn the use of ALL academic boycotts, thus potentially circumscribing the ways that faculty can advocate on issues of public concern and ostracizing those that choose this tactic.

·         Supporters of free speech should be alarmed that this legislative overreach could ultimately affect any of us, while it is currently being proposed to chill academic speech activities that are critical of Israeli policies towards Palestinians. The resolution is also being opposed by the Illinois ACLU.

·         All people of good will, including Jewish residents of Illinois, should be irate that this bill charges supporters of academic boycotts as anti-Semitic – without a shred of evidence and despite the fact that many supporters of the academic boycott of Israel are Jewish and see it as a legitimate tool to confront Israeli human rights violations.

Many of you have responded to previous calls for action on this and other attacks on academic freedom.  We need your help again now to defeat this resolution!

We are asking you to do TWO things TODAY to help stop this resolution from moving forward!

1.  Submit an online witness slip TODAY to oppose its passage in the committee and by the Illinois General Assembly.  It will only take a couple of minutes – but its impact on legislators is major (directions below). Already, supporters of Senator Silverstein are mounting their own witness slip campaign in response to the success of our past efforts. IF YOU ALREADY SUBMITTED A WITNESS SLIP ABOUT THE BILL, THIS IS A NEW PROCESS FOR THE NEW RESOLUTION – PLEASE SUBMIT THIS AS WELL.

Step-by Step Instructions for Witness Slips for Submission to Illinois Legislature (Illinois Residents Only)

  • Click on Link http://my.ilga.gov/WitnessSlip/Create/81448?committeeHearingId=11752&LegislationId=81448&CommitteeHearings-page=1&_=1396109016769
  • Identification: Enter your personal information. If you are an academic or a member of a relevant free speech, human rights, or peace organization – list your institutional affiliation.
  • Representation: If you are representing and organization – list it here.
  • Position: Click on the button next to “Opponent”
  • Testimony: Click on the box next to “Record of Appearance Only”Filling out a witness slip does not mean you have to appear in person at the hearing - it is a mechanism that allows you to register your opposition to the resolution.
  • Type the Captcha Code in the box.
  • Click Next to “I Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement.
  • Click on “Create Slip.”

2. We urge Illinois residents to make calls to members of the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee on the mornings of Monday, March 31st and Tuesday, April 1st, to oppose the resolution.  (Talking Points below)

  • If you are a constituent of any of the Judiciary Committee senators below, please call his or her office and identify yourself as a constituent. If you don’t know who your State Senator is, go to this link and type your address to find out: http://www.elections.il.gov/districtlocator/addressfinder.aspx
  •  Otherwise, call the chair and vice-chair of the committee and identify your affiliation (college or university, civil liberties, peace organization, concerned citizen etc.).
  •  If you have time, call the resolution’s sponsor, Ira Silverstein, who is on the committee, and any other members you can reach!

Committee Members

Here are several talking points:

I ask the Senator to vote NO on Senate Resolution SJR 59.  The Illinois General Assembly should not

  • call on college and university administrators to condemn the use of ALL academic boycotts - potentially limiting the ways that faculty can advocate on issues of public concern and ostracizing those that choose this tactic
  • support unconstitutional actions that limit constitutionally protected speech and association  (See ACLU opposition to resolution at www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1500
  • characterize supporters of academic boycotts of Israel as anti-Semitic – without a shred of evidence and despite the fact that many supporters of the academic boycott of Israel are Jewish and see it as a legitimate tool to confront Israeli human rights violations.

THANK YOU for taking action! Our organized response can help prevent this resolution from moving forward!

The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech was formed in response to anti-boycott legislation introduced in the Illinois State Senate.  The Coalition includes the Center for Constitutional RightsCAIR-ChicagoJewish Voice for Peace-ChicagoPalestine Solidarity Legal SupportAmerican Studies AssociationCommittee for a Just Peace in Israel and PalestinePalestine Solidarity Group-ChicagoArab-Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle EastCommittee Against Political RepressionFriends of Sabeel: North AmericaUnited States Palestinian Community Network,  American Friends Service Committee- Chicago, Just Foreign PolicyDefending Dissent Foundation, American Muslims for PalestineUIC Graduate Employees Organization, IFT-AFT Local 6297and other individuals