July 9, 2007
Wagner issues statement
on academic freedom
President Jim Wagner has lent his voice to those opposing a threatened boycott of Israeli universities by the University and College Union of the United Kingdom, representing more than 120,000 lecturers and other academic staff members.
The UCU has said that it will hold a debate on the possible boycott, in a move that is already triggering widespread denunciations — including, most recently, a vote of overwhelming opposition from union members themselves at Oxford University.
“At Emory we are committed to the principle of academic freedom. Clearly any constraint on scholarly exchange would impinge on this foundational freedom of the academy, and in the long run such constraints undermine both the spirit of academic freedom and the practical means for safeguarding it,” Wagner said.
“The proposed boycott of Israeli academics is outrageous and strikes at the very heart of intellectual and university life. All of us with an interest in the continued livelihood of universities must do everything in our power to protect their intellectual vitality.”
Recently, Robert M. Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities (to which Emory belongs), urged UCU members to reject the threatened boycott.
“Academic boycotts are inimical to the free exchange of ideas that is essential to academic freedom,” he said. “Members of the academic profession should seek to preserve academic freedom, not restrict it. It is our hope that the UCU will vote down this boycott.”