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Brandeis Withdraws from American Studies Association

Becomes second university to do so after ASA’s Israel boycott

Yair Rosenberg
December 18, 2013
Brandeis University (U.S. News)
Brandeis University (U.S. News)

Brandeis University has become the second institution to withdraw from the American Studies Association, following the organization’s decision to boycott Israel. “We view the recent vote by the membership to affirm an academic boycott of Israel as a politicization of the discipline and a rebuke to the kind of open inquiry that a scholarly association should foster,” Brandeis’s American Studies Department posted on their web site. “We remain committed to the discipline of American Studies but we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture–freedom of association and expression.”

Brandeis joins Penn State Harrisburg, which dropped its ASA membership yesterday. “As a prominent program in American Studies concerned for the welfare of its students and faculty, Penn State Harrisburg is worried that the recent actions by the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) do not reflect the longstanding scholarly enterprise American Studies stands for,” Penn State’s Dr. Simon Bronner, editor of the Encyclopedia of American Studies, said in a statement. “The withdrawal of institutional membership by our program and others allows us to be independent of the political and ideological resolutions issued by the ASA and concentrate on building American Studies scholarship with our faculty, students, and staff.”

During the run-up to the ASA vote on the Israel boycott, former Harvard President Lawrence Summers said he hoped universities would take such steps should the measure pass. “My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their universities’ funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association bur really more of a political tool,” he told Charlie Rose. It appears at least some institutions are following Summers’s lead.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.