The University of Nebraska has issued a statement rejecting the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
The American Studies Association, which has members at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, voted in December to boycott Israeli academic institutions to protest the country’s treatment of Palestinians.
But NU President James B. Milliken and the chancellors of the NU campuses rejected the call to boycott the Israeli universities because they believe it is misguided and hinders the open pursuit of knowledge and the exchange of ideas.
“We urge our colleagues to adopt policies that encourage dialogue rather than those that threaten the institutions and communities that are founded on free and open inquiry and discourse,” the statement read.
Toward the end of last semester, Jeannette Eileen Jones, a member of the ASA and a history and ethnic studies professor at UNL, went to a meeting with other ASA members to discuss the boycott.
“People spoke out for and against this boycott,” Jones said.
The boycott prevents members of ASA working with academic institutions that have denied Palestinians their basic rights, but does not prevent members from working with individual scholars.
Jones said the ASA isn’t saying it is boycotting everything from Israel, but promoting basic rights for Palestinians, especially within the educational system.
No one reached out to Jones before the university’s statement, and she doesn’t know if there will be a conversation in the future, Jones said.
Jones said she doesn’t think the university’s announcement will greatly impact the Mid-America American Studies Association, the regional subgroup of ASA that includes universities in Nebraska.
“Whether or not the university is in agreement should not affect (faculty/professor) tenure,” Jones said.
All faculty members have the right to their own opinions and thoughts, Jones said.
During the vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions, 66 percent of the ASA voted for the boycott, 30 percent voted against it, and 3 percent abstained, according to the ASA’s website.
The University of Nebraska issued its statement on Dec. 18. Other higher education organizations, such as the Association of Public and Land-grant Institutions, the American Council on Education and the American Association of University Professors, have also opposed the boycott.
ASA is the professional interdisciplinary association for scholars who study the American culture and history, have an academic journal and conferences, Jones said.
MAASA also includes members from Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Zach Bram, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and president of Hillel-Jewish Student Association, said the student group has no agreed-upon thoughts about the boycott and is still trying to get everyone together because it’s the beginning of semester.
“It’s the first week back and we are all getting things together,” Bram said.
Charles Holm, a history graduate student, said he thinks the statement from the university is “a total joke.”
“There is always this perception that Palestinians are violent and that Israel is the victim, but the opposite is true,” Holm said. “They are trying to find non-violent ways to assert their rights.”
Holm said the statement from the university is misleading and misses the point of ASA’s resolution.
“A lot of boycotts are symbolic,” Holm said.