New York University’s president and chairman of the board of trustees sent a scathing letter to the university’s department of social and cultural analysis on Wednesday condemning its decision not to cooperate with the school’s Tel Aviv campus as “deplorable,” The Jewish Week has learned.
“As scholarly communities, universities are founded on the principle of drawing people together so that they can engage one another. This engagement is at the heart of our teaching and learning and research missions,” William Berkley, chair of the board of trustees, and Andrew Hamilton, president of the university, wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Jewish Week.
Condemning the department’s vote last week, they continued: “By ostracizing those associated with NYU Tel Aviv, it not only undermines the principle of the free exchange of ideas, so vital and fundamental to our academic enterprise, it also seems sure to have a chilling effect on the spirit of open inquiry we expect faculty to foster in the classroom. Followed to its conclusion, this kind of ostracism could cause wholesale disruption of our academic community — the free exchange of ideas will mean little if groups refuse to engage one another.”
The department’s vote last week made it the first NYU department to pledge non-cooperation with the Tel Aviv campus. According to the resolution adopted last week: “Israel has a longstanding practice of barring entry to persons of Palestinian descent, and its recent amendments to the Law of Entry prohibit entry to members of groups that are critical of government policies. Many members of the NYU community (including members of the department) are affected by these policies and are effectively unable to access NYU’s program in Tel Aviv. The resolution seeks to protect the department from complicity with these forms of racial, religious, and political profiling.”
The department’s decision came just weeks after NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine group was awarded the president’s service award, an honor given to student groups who have contributed to campus life. Responding to a critical op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Hamilton, NYU’s president, wrote a letter to the editor in which he distanced himself from the award. “Had it been up to me, SJP would not have received the award,” he wrote.
The letter to the social and cultural analysis department came just before Israel’s Independence Day, marked at NYU by a “rave in the park” hosted by one of the school’s pro-Israel clubs. Students for Justice in Palestine counter-protested with a “die-in,” in which several students lay on the ground holding signs with the names of Palestinian villages.