President Stephen C. Ainlay has voiced his opposition to a proposed boycott of Israeli colleges by the British faculty union.
In early July, Ainlay sent a letter to the General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), decrying the idea of a boycott. He, along with leaders of other prominent U.S. colleges and universities hopes to influence the debate in Great Britain by speaking out forcefully against the proposal.
The proposal, which is currently being debated in regional meetings of the 120,000-member UCU, calls for boycotting Israeli academic institutions and academicians in order to apply pressure on the Israeli government.
"I join my colleague, President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University, and the mounting chorus of other college and university presidents and scholars, in voicing my objection to this course of action,'' Ainlay wrote in his letter. “Like President Bollinger, I find the idea of a boycott ‘utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment.'' '
“At a time when world tensions run high and pressures toward fragmentation seemingly grow, the academy provides the greatest hope for dialogue and understanding. The boycott of Israeli academics and/or academic institutions stands to dash such hope. In my view, the UCU is considering action that would damage the very mission of higher education.
“I am proud to say that Union College will work to foster, not diminish, dialogue and intellectual exchange. I urge members of the UCU to be mindful of the mission of higher education, to turn away from the idea of a boycott, and join us in doing the same.”