Brandeis, Penn State Harrisburg quit ASA over Israel boycott


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The American studies departments of Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg withdrew from the American Studies Association after it voted to boycott Israeli universities.

“We view the recent vote by the membership to affirm an academic boycott of Israel as a politicization of the discipline and a rebuke to the kind of open inquiry that a scholarly association should foster,” Brandeis University said in a statement Wednesday.

“We remain committed to the discipline of American Studies but we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture — freedom of association and expression,” it said.

Penn State Harrisburg in a statement obtained by the Legal Insurrection blog said: “In the wake of the passage of the resolution by the ASA to boycott Israeli institutions, which programs and departments such as Penn State Harrisburg’s program in American Studies consider to curtail academic freedom and undermine the reputation of American Studies as a scholarly enterprise, the chair of the American Studies program at Penn State Harrisburg plans to drop its institutional membership and will encourage others to do so.”

Its department chairman, Simon Bronner, attended the ASA session in November that included a discussion of the boycott.

The boycott, approved in an online canvassing of the ASA membership that ended Dec. 15, targets universities, not individuals, and is not binding on ASA members.

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