Dear NYU President Andrew Hamilton,
The Executive Committee of NYU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors supports the autonomy of NYU faculty in choosing not to cooperate with the study abroad program at NYU’s Tel Aviv site (NYU-TA).
Within a few days, nearly one hundred NYU faculty (and more than 400 students, staff, and alumni) have signed a pledge of non-cooperation, initiated by the Faculty of Color for an Anti-Racist NYU. In a recent press release, John Beckman described these individual acts of conscience as being “at odds with the tenets of academic freedom.” In fact, the opposite is true. Faculty and staff are appealing directly to the principles of academic freedom when they adopt such positions publicly, and it is the obligation of university administrations to acknowledge and defend their speech rights without any implication of a rebuke or censure.
We wish to remind you of the clearly stated grounds for such pledges of non-cooperation. The operation of NYU-TA appears to be in violation of NYU policy statements of ethics, regarding nondiscrimination, mutual respect, and diversity. Israel’s laws of entry make it impossible for all of our students and faculty to access the Tel Aviv site. It is an obligation and an act of diligence for faculty and students to call attention to this failure to observe NYU’s own policies in the operation of a program.
In October 2018, we wrote to you regarding this apparent violation. We still await a response regarding this serious issue. In the meantime, we will support the right of faculty and instructors to choose noncooperation with programs in whatever form they believe to be ethically justified.
Lastly, we want to point out that the public response by John Beckman is only the latest in a series of statements made by the NYU administration regarding campus speech about Middle Eastern affairs. Unfailingly, these statements have adopted a stance of partiality, and, on occasion, a directly punitive tone towards students or faculty who speak up about Palestinian rights. Trust in the administration is undermined when it singles out, and speaks with reproach about, members of NYU’s own community in this way. At worst, this practice offers nourishment to the well-documented efforts of outside pressure groups to smear, harass, and promote the firing of employees for their views on human rights.
For more than a hundred years, the AAUP has been dedicated to showing that official interdiction of academic speech is damaging to the academic enterprise. In observation of our principles, we urge you to discontinue this policy of public disapproval, and instead to more fully respect, and defend, the precious right that is the lifeblood of our profession.