In an era in which it is trendy to follow political and social movements purely for the sake of being a part of something, without giving thought to their validity, it is refreshing to have a university president stand for the integrity of intellectual freedom. In a statement given on December 27th, President Fry rejected the recent Academic Studies Association (ASA) boycott of Israeli universities.
It is ridiculous to think that the ASA decided to hold an academic boycott on a nation that has religious and racial diversity within all of its universities, including affirmative action for Arab students, on the pretense that Israel denies academic rights to Palestinians. Furthermore, Israel has the only actual democratic political system and free press in the Middle East. It is absolutely astonishing, given the actual academic and human rights atrocities occurring in other parts of the globe, that the ASA decided to hinder Israel.
When does the ASA plan to boycott Iran, which barbarically hangs those who speak for political and religious equality? When will the ASA boycott Russia, which imprisons those who advocate for gay rights labeling them as “propagandists?” And why doesn’t the ASA boycott China, which in October allowed a university professor to be fired for speaking for free speech and democratic reform?
When the multitude of actual injustices around the world are ignored in favor of a vendetta against a fictitious one, the question must be asked, why such a tragedy is occurring. And when the tragedy is occurring against the only Jewish state in the world, anti-Semitism must be considered. Former president of Harvard University, one of the 187 schools that have also rejected the boycott, Larry Summers, said in an interview that the actions of the ASA are “anti-Semitic in their effect if not necessarily in their intent.” Whether an anti-Semitic motive for the boycott exists or not, to ignore the facts of the situation would be naïve.
Drexel has greatly benefited from its academic partnerships with Israeli institutions. It has relationships with the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) and Ben Gurion University. The recent consortium announced between Drexel, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem only further iterates the importance of international research collaboration. In his statement, Fry acknowledged that “open discourse, intellectual skepticism, and deep engagement rather than exclusion remain the surest ways to advancing knowledge and understanding.” In accordance with President Fry’s message, it is crucial for everyone to realize that these academic ties have the potential to lead to discoveries that can help the entire world.