I saw an excellent article in the Tablet today from one of my favorite former Williams professors, K.C. Johnson, on the successes enjoyed by those fighting against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses. In particular, he applauds the presidents of Pitzer, Cornell and the University of Michigan for standing up to the BDS movement.
Nevertheless, Johnson thinks it is foolish to depend on college presidents to stamp out the BSD movement. Instead, he recommends more aggressive actions by faculty and students. Among faculty, he notes:
On the faculty side, after several minor academic organizations had adopted resolutions committing support to BDS, the American Historical Association seemed poised to follow suit. But the Alliance for Academic Freedom, an organization championed by high-profile professors such as Maryland’s Jeffrey Herf and David Greenberg of Rutgers, engaged the BDS advocates on a variety of grounds, and helped to persuade more moderate AHA members to decisively reject the BDS resolution. The 2016 vote blunted the momentum of BDS activists in targeting academic organizations.
Likewise, Johnson also sees great hope in encouraging students to show courage in combating the BDS movement on their own, potentially with the help of legal talent.
Earlier this week, meanwhile, San Francisco State University settled a lawsuit filed by two Jewish students who alleged religious discrimination in one of the nation’s most virulently anti-Israel campus environments. The university agreed to spend $200,000 on “educational efforts to promote viewpoint diversity (including but not limited to pro-Israel and Zionist viewpoints).” The school also released a statement reiterating “its commitment to equity and inclusion for all—including those who are Jewish,” and affirming “the values of free expression and diversity of viewpoints that are so critical on a university campus.
It is, of course, a great shame that K.C. Johnson saw his excellent research demeaned while he was a junior faculty member at Williams. According to a report he gave to an Ephblog correspondent, he bailed out rather than endure what looked like a fruitless, upcoming tenure battle. It warms my heart to see such a courageous fellow sticking it out in the academic world, promoting the freedom of speech standards which once made our elite institutions truly elite.