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Columbia professors oppose New York State Assembly Bill targeting academic boycotts

  • HE'S AGAINST IT | State Senator Bill Perkins was one of four legislators to vote against the New York State Assembly Bill, which compelled nearly 100 Columbia professors to speak out in opposition.

Nearly 100 Columbia faculty members signed a letter to the New York State Assembly opposing a hotly debated bill that would cut state funding to academic institutions that have connections to groups that boycott Israel.

A version of the bill passed 56-4 in the New York State Senate on Jan. 28, but was pulled from the assembly on Feb. 4 after opposition from education groups like the New York State United Teachers union. A rewritten bill introduced Feb. 12 more specifically prohibited state funds from being used to support organizations that boycott foreign educational institutions, which may still be put up for another vote in the future.

“These bills aim to punish political speech and association of academics generally,” the faculty letter said. “Both of these aims violate well-settled law protecting First Amendment rights.”

The bill is partly in response to the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli educational institutions in December. A statement from the ASA called the bill “a direct attack on academic freedom.”

“I am glad to join those colleagues who are protesting the bill because it aims to curtail the ability of academics to speak out on matters of public concern,” Marianne Hirsch, professor of comparative literature and gender studies, said. “It represents a serious assault on academic freedom.”

“The state should not infringe on the rights of associations, including academic organizations, to express their political views, however distasteful those views might be to some legislators or even to individual members of the organization,” Elizabeth Blackmar, a history professor and one of the signees, said. “This principle does not depend on the specific political question. It is a foundation for any robust and meaningful political debate.”

Professors said that opposing the bill was a matter of basic rights, not a political statement.

“Some of the signatories to this letter endorse the principles underlying the ASA’s resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions, others do not,” Katherine Franke, a professor at the Law School, said.

“Regardless of whether one supports that cause to which this particular boycott is responding. We all firmly believe that academics have a right to express their political views through a wide range of protected speech, including boycotts,” Franke said.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, who represents parts of Columbia’s Morningside campus and Harlem, was one of the four legislators who voted against the bill in January. He said he recognized the political implications behind the bill.

“This [opposing the bill] might be offensive to folks because of their sense of association with Israel,” Perkins said. “Which is not different from mine I might add.”

He added that he did not support boycotts, and that he opposed the bill for ideological reasons.

“It’s not a question of being agreeable or disagreeable with the message,” Perkins said. “This is the United States of America, and these types of bills are slippery slopes that can begin to put a chilling effect on the freedom of speech.”

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who also represents parts of Morningside Heights and Manhattanville, did not respond to requests for comment.

Christian Zhang contributed reporting.  |  @ChanningPrend


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M. Theresa Basile posted on

Very proud of my alma mater, the faculty and also President Bollinger, for publicly opposing this legislation!

Ariely Shein posted on

Look at their mirror and ask yourself who they really are!!

They are silent and not boycotting countries or organizations that:

Example in Arab/Iran:

1: Lebanon, where there is a law that bans Palestinians from working in over 50 professions.

2:The press freedoms index :
In 2002 Turkey was 99th out of 139 countries>
By 2013 Turkey had fallen to 154th place out of 179 countries.

3: Palestinians are using ambulances and international press symbol for terror activities.

4:* ""The struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated"".(From the PLO Congress 2009)
*Hamas charter
""Peace and quiet for Christians and Jews is possible only under Islam wings""
"The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews)""

5: Saud Arabia:
Deny: Women equality--human rights--religious freedom—democracy and fund infidel hate preaching and teaching worldwide

6: Iran:
Gays are executed- Teachers of Bahai religion are hanged up- A husband can kill his adulterous wife without punishment while a woman is punishable by death.

Punishing by death the ones sailing land to Jew

8; Palestin
The laying to infidels in order to promote their goals is legitimate by the traditional Takyya laying to infidels doctrine

8.1: Arabic- Interview to Al Jazeera with Abbas Zaki, senior member Palestinian:
"If we say that we want to wipeIsrael out its too difficult.
It’s not acceptable policy to say so.
Don’t say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself.
Everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go.

8.2:PLO platform:
"The struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity IS ELIMINATED""

8.3:Palestine Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah inLebanon :
"The peace talks with Israel are part of ARAB STARTEGY TO ISOLATE ISRAEL and threaten its legitimacy."

8.4:Azzam al-Ahmed head of Fatah :
"Fatah has never recognized Israel’s right to exist and WILL NEVER DO SO.
Neither Fatah nor Hamas is required to recognize Israel"

8.5:Hamas charter:
*"The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims kill the Jews.

8.6:PLO platform:
"The struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity IS ELIMINATED""
1:Al-Jazeera praises IDF.
""why the Syrian army, Hezbollah and other Islamic military groups cannot be more humane like the Israeli. ""

2:Arab press publicizes Israeli heart treatment.
Israeli doctors fixed the reversed ventricles-a 4-year boy
- his father said, "We always heard in the Arab media how children from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were receiving medical treatment in Israel.”
Palestinians and Hisbula are firing rockets targeting Israel hospitals.

3: Israel has provided medical treatment in Israeli hospitals to 700 Syrians.
Israel has provided food and winter closes to Syrian villages nearby Israeli border>
What the so called human rights organization has done?
words-words-words in geveva
No-no-no real help similar to Israel>

However boycott the defending Israel