Feb. 25: Eric Cheyfitz and William Jacobson to speak on the academic boycott of Israel

Two speakers on the topic of the academic boycott of Israel will appear at separate presentations on February 25 at Ithaca College. This issue has come to public notice after the American Studies Association voted in mid-December to endorse the boycott. On January 9, Ithaca College president Tom Rochon issued an official statement about the boycott resolution passed by the ASA, saying that “such boycotts are antithetical to the constructive exchange of ideas in the global communities of scholarship.” 

Professor Eric Cheyfitz, the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters, Cornell University, will present the case for the boycott at 7 pm in Klingenstein Lounge, and Professor William Jacobson, a clinical professor of law and director of the Securities Law Clinic at the Cornell University Law School, will speak against the boycott in a talk titled “The Case for Israel and Academic Freedom" at 8:00 pm in Clark Lounge. Professor Cheyfitz’s talk is cosponsored by the Departments of English and Politics, the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity, and the Park Center for Independent Media. Professor Jacobson’s talk is sponsored by Hillel at Ithaca College and the Jewish Studies program.

The Ithaca College library has created a webpage for more information on the academic boycott from a range of perspectives. The URL is: http://www.ithacalibrary.com/sp/subjects/freedom

Announcements for both talks are given below, along with President Rochon’s statement on the boycott, which was posted to Intercom on January 9.

Eric Cheyfitz

After the American Studies Association (ASA) declared its support in December for an international boycott of Israeli academic institutions, President Tom Rochon and other academic executives across the country hastened to condemn the ASA's action and the boycott.

Cornell Professor and ASA member Eric Cheyfitz will present the case for the resolution, as well as responses to it, at a public talk on Tuesday, February 25, at 7:00 p.m. in Klingenstein Lounge, Campus Center.

The ASA has become the center of a firestorm. A bill in front of the New York State legislature that would strip funding from university groups involved in the boycott. Similar measures are being considered in other state legislatures and in the U.S. Congress.

Eric Cheyfitz is the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, where he teaches American literatures, American Indian literatures, and federal Indian law. He is former director of Cornell’s American Indian Program. In addition to three books and numerous published articles, Cheyfitz regularly contributes to newspapers, radio, documentary film, and legal proceedings involving issues of both Native rights and academic freedom. He coedited a special issue of the journal South Atlantic Quarterly titled Sovereignty, Indigeneity, and the Law, which won the Council of Editors of Learned Journals award for the best special issue of a journal for 2011. Cheyfitz recently discussed the ASA boycott on Democracy Now! and in the Journal of Higher Education.

The event is cosponsored by the Departments of English and Politics; Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity; and Park Center for Independent Media.

William Jacobson

Ithaca College will host a talk by William A. Jacobson, a clinical professor of law and director of the Securities Law Clinic at the Cornell University Law School, on “The Case for Israel and Academic Freedom.” His presentation, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m. in Clark Lounge, Egbert Hall.

Jacobson is the founder and publisher of two popular websites, Legal Insurrection and College Insurrection. Legal Insurrection is at the forefront of opposing the academic boycott of Israel and has filed a challenge to the tax exempt status of the American Studies Association, which voted in December to endorse a resolution supporting an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

Prior to joining the Cornell law faculty in 2007, Jacobson had a highly successful civil litigation and arbitration practice, concentrating in investment, employment and business disputes in the securities industry. He is quoted frequently in national media on issues related to investment fraud and investor protection. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law School, where he served as senior editor of the Harvard International Law Journal and director of litigation for the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project.

Jacobson’s talk is sponsored by the Jewish studies program and Hillel at Ithaca College. For more information, contact Hillel director Igor Khokhlov at ikhokhlov@ithaca.edu.

Statement by President Rochon

President Rochon Statement on American Studies Association Boycott

In mid-December, the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israel’s higher-education institutions to protest the country’s treatment of Palestinians. I have subsequently been asked by some members of the Ithaca College community to articulate my position on the boycott.

Ithaca College has a history of standing for academic freedom.  We also have a history of supporting the underlying practices that make academic freedom effective:  freedom of scholars to conduct their research, to associate with each other to share and refine their ideas, and to publish the findings and conclusions of their scholarly work.  Academic boycotts, whatever their motivation may be, infringe on these central tenets of higher learning.  Several scholarly associations, including the American Studies Association, have recently resolved to boycott Israeli universities.  Although Ithaca College has no institutional relationship with those scholarly associations and therefore no venue for communication directly with them, the principles for which we stand lead us to conclude that such boycotts are antithetical to the constructive exchange of ideas in the global communities of scholarship.

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