CAIR-Chicago joins The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech.
On March 4, 2014, in Chicago, a bill that would prohibit public universities and colleges from using any state funds on groups that have made statements in support of, or that participate in boycotts of Israeli academic institutions will be considered has been introduced in the Illinois State Senate and will be considered in the Senate’s Higher Education Committee.
For instance, state aid could not be used for travel, lodging or membership dues for a faculty member attending the conference of an academic association that made a statement in support of a boycott of Israel. Universities that do so would lose all of their state funding for that year.
According to the legislation’s sponsor, Senate Bill 3017 was drafted in response to the American Studies Association’s (ASA) recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
A coalition of groups have prepared in opposition to the bill, which would be a substantial blow to academic freedom and free speech in the university context.
Some of the coalition partners shared their reasons for opposing the bill:
Maria LaHood, senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights:
“The Illinois anti-boycott bill is a clear violation of the First Amendment. By singling out for punishment advocacy for boycotts aimed at changing Israeli policy, the bill’s sponsor attempts to dictate what kind of political speech is acceptable on college campuses, where free inquiry and debate should be able to thrive without government interference.”
Nadine Naber, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and member of the American Studies Association:
“Anyone who cares about public education and the future of free speech should oppose this bill. It creates a culture of fear and intimidation on college campuses, and contradicts the very values of higher education. Rather than teaching our students the values of critical debate and differences of opinion, this bill punishes dissent and tells faculty and students to keep their ideas to themselves. If legislators can do this to protect Israel from scrutiny, imagine what other dissenting speech they could silence on university campuses.”
Lynn Pollack, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago:
“We all have an obligation to stand up against these attempts to define what is in the interests of the academic community and the Jewish community. We need to hear a range of voices on this internationally important issue that has been festering without resolution for decades.”
Agnieszka Karoluk, CAIR-Chicago’s Senior Communication Coordinator:
“This bill proposes to withhold your tax dollars from public institutions by denying them state funding for that year, while at the same time, sending those tax dollars to support the illegal human rights abuses by the Israeli government. CAIR-Chicago unequivocally opposes this proposal as it seeks to penalize Constitutional rights of free expression and assembly; the very foundation of what we expect from our educational institutions.”
In an effort to contribute to the larger movement for social justice in Israel/Palestine, the American Studies Association endorsed a resolution in December 2013 to boycott Israeli academic institutions in protest of the central role that they play in Israel’s denial of Palestinian human rights.
CAIR-Chicago is joined by the CAIR National and the CAIR-Maryland branches in order to bring a stop from the censoring of public universities in The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech. In addition to the current effort, there have been numerous efforts previously made, by CAIR National, CAIR-MD, CAIR-NY to protest passing of bills that pose a danger to the rights and liberties of all American citizens,
CAIR-MD has issued an action alert for citizens of the state to contact their senators to stop the passing of the bill.
Similar anti-boycott legislation has been made known In New York, Maryland and the U.S. House of Representatives
See ACLU-IL’s letter to the Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee: ACLU-IL_LetterToHECreSB 3017
See Action Alert to contact State Representatives.
Keep up the pressure on Illinois State Legislature to kill the bill restricting academic freedom and free speech learning more here.
For more information on the legality of academic boycott, see Palestinian Solidarity Legal Support’s frequently asked questions.
The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech includes the Center for Constitutional Rights, CAIR-Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, American Studies Association, Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago, Arab-Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, Committee Against Political Repression, Friends of Sabeel: North America, United States Palestinian Community Network, American Friends Service Committee- Chicago, Just Foreign Policy, Defending Dissent Foundation, and other individuals.