UNC Faculty Petition in Defense of Democratic Processes in Scholarly Associations
As UNC-CH faculty, we write in response to the public statement issued by Chancellor Carol Folt and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost James W. Dean, Jr. concerning the American Studies Association (ASA). In December, following similar votes taken by the Asian American Studies Association and the Native American Studies Association, ASA members voted by a two-thirds majority to prohibit the ASA from establishing formal institutional collaborations with Israeli universities. This move, and the year-long process that led up to the resolution, came in response to a call from Palestinian civil society protesting human rights abuses and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. On December 31, 2013, while UNC-CH was closed—and many students, staff, and faculty were away from campus—Folt and Dean published a letter on the UNC-CH website condemning the ASA vote. While we, the undersigned, vary in our views on the ASA resolution and the tactic of academic boycotts in general, we are concerned that Folt and Dean’s statement does not accurately represent the content or context of the ASA resolution, and that it improperly establishes an official position on the issue of academic boycotts without due deliberation.
For example, Folt and Dean’s statement asserts that the ASA resolution “directly opposes principles of access” without defining “access” or explaining the violation of the principle. The ASA resolution expressly forbids any actions against individual Israeli scholars and is not binding on member institutions. Its actions only apply to official ASA business, in line with standard practices by which scholarly associations democratically determine their own forms of institutional association. Scholarly associations have, in the past, made a number of similar institutional policy decisions, including the American Anthropological Association's boycott of Arizona due to its immigration law (SB 1070) and ASA's support of an employee strike against Hyatt hotels. In these and other instances, UNC-CH administrative leaders have not taken similar positions against boycotts. Furthermore, those cases illustrate that principled positions on contemporary social and economic issues are not antithetical to academic freedom, but rather, integral to it.
Folt and Dean’s statement was released at a time when many college presidents have been asked to make similar public statements against the ASA resolution. In most cases, these statements assert opposition to the ASA without accurate explanations of the resolution or rationales against it. We encourage UNC-CH to unequivocally acknowledge the right of scholarly associations to democratically determine their own institutional rules. We also hope that public deliberation at UNC-CH and elsewhere can help produce a more informed discussion of (and shed some “light” on) issues related to academic freedom, open access, and human rights in Israel and Palestine.
This statement was published on January 23, 2014 in The Daily Tar Heeland was endorsed by 37 UNC faculty: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/01/the-untold-parts-of-our-education-policy
Folt and Dean's Statement:
American Anthropological Association Arizona Boycott Statement:
ASA Hyatt Hotels Statement: