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‘Boycott Israel’ Event at Brooklyn College Raises Alarms

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, raising concerns in regard to a BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) Movement Against Israel event scheduled for this week.

FIRE objects to calls by several elected officials threatened to withdraw funding from Brooklyn College if the event took place.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

At the outset, FIRE wishes to make clear that we take no position on the BDS movement or any other aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. FIRE consistently defends the rights of those who are threatened with censorship or punishment on campus, regardless of their point of view…

Our concern in this case therefore stems not from a political opinion on the issue but from our concern about the ramifications for academic freedom posed by the threats to Brooklyn College’s funding. Academic freedom is essential for the functioning of an institution of higher education. If an institution of higher education is to serve as a marketplace of ideas and a haven of free thought, those who teach and study there must not be made to live in fear that arguing for, espousing, or simply coming to believe an idea will lead to political threats either to their positions in the academic community or to the institution as a whole. As Mayor Bloomberg pointed out in his statement on the subject today, threats from lawmakers to withdraw funding when controversial views are aired create the antithesis of such an environment…

Academic freedom is important–especially when it comes to defending the free speech rights of students and professors who hold unpopular beliefs. And one’s commitment to academic freedom is best tested by confronting beliefs one may find objectionable.

Is FIRE right to defend the right of Brooklyn College to hold the BDS event? And are there any proper limits to academic freedom? What do you think?

Full story here.

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