To Boycott or Not to Boycott?

An RWU response to the American Studies Association’s call to boycott Israeli universities

Last month, voting members of the American Studies Association passed a resolution calling for colleges in the United States to boycott Israeli universities. In the weeks since, that measure has been discussed, debated and reported on widely.

On Monday, Jan. 6, President Farish and Provost Workman shared the following message with the Roger Williams University community, outlining the University’s position on the boycott:

In December, the nearly 5,000 members of the American Studies Association were asked to vote on a resolution calling for U.S. universities to boycott Israeli universities, based on a request for such a boycott by Palestinian academics. Just over 1,250 ASA members voted, and those voting supported the resolution by a two to one margin.

Roger Williams University’s Department of History and American Studies has an institutional membership in the ASA, and some of our faculty are officers in the regional chapter of the ASA. RWU is committed to the freedom of members of our academic community to discuss and debate often-controversial matters without fear of reproach or interference by the administration of the university, or, for that matter, interference by the external community. Consistent with our culture of academic freedom, we leave to our faculty decisions regarding membership in scholarly societies.

However, we believe that institutional boycotts impinge upon academic freedom because they have the effect of stifling the free exchange of information. We find antithetical to our university’s core values any restrictions on the exchange of ideas and opinions. For that reason, we wish to go on record as opposing any boycott of other universities, inside this country or external to it.