Today, Zoom unilaterally shut down a webinar hosted by the NYU chapter of the AAUP, and co-sponsored by several NYU departments and institutes. The webinar was scheduled to discuss the censorship, by Zoom and other big tech platforms, of an open classroom session last month at SFSU, featuring the Palestinian rights advocate Leila Khaled.
Of course, we recognize that it is an act of sick comedy to censor an event about censorship, but it raises serious questions about the capacity of a corporate, third-party vendor to decide what is acceptable academic speech and what is not.
The shutdown of a campus event is a clear violation of the principle of academic freedom that universities are obliged to observe. Allowing Zoom to override this bedrock principle, at the behest of organized, politically motivated groups, is a grave error for any university administration to make, and it should not escape censure from faculty and students.
The NYU administration has told us they knew nothing about Zoom’s decision, and that they have taken up the issue with the company’s representatives. We urge the administration to issue a strong statement denouncing this act, and to revisit the terms of its contract with Zoom.
If Zoom will not walk back its policy of canceling webinars featuring Palestinian speech and advocacy, college presidents should break their agreements with the company.
The AAUP chapter is committed to organizing an event for the NYU community to discuss this appalling breach of academic norms.
A recording of the webinar, conducted without attendees, is forthcoming.