Keep Up Pressure on Illinois State Legislature to Kill the Bill Restricting Academic Freedom, Free Speech

Illinois State Senate Bill 3017 Did Not Go Forward March 4th

Illinois State Senate Bill 3017 would deny funding to public universities that participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  It would, for example, prohibit a faculty member from getting funds to travel to an American Studies Association (ASA) meeting, even if that meeting is unrelated to the boycott, or the professor herself is opposed to the boycott. A college that violates the prohibition would lose all public funds for that academic year. According to the legislation’s sponsor, it was drafted in response to the ASA’s recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions, like similar bills around the country.

IL State Senator Silverstein first introduced the Amended SB 3017 on February 25, 2014. The bill’s original text, which was a placeholder for the amendment with the anti-boycott language, was assigned to the Higher Education Committee and was posted for a hearing on March 4th.  Even though the Amendment to the bill was not posted, the Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech (members listed below) mobilized opposition to the Amendment in case it was posted at the last minute.  A number of organizations, academics, and community members voiced concern to senators through call-ins, letters and petitions stating that the proposed legislation was unconstitutional, and an impermissible attempt to dictate to Illinois universities what faculty speech activities are acceptable forms of expression and association.

OUR VOICES WERE HEARD! Senators on the Higher Education Committee were flooded with calls opposing the bill, and many callers were told that they weren’t hearing from anyone who was FOR the bill! Higher Ed Committee members now know this bill can’t pass quietly, and they are questioning the wisdom of the bill.

Click here to read the Center for Constitutional Rights and ACLU-IL’s letters to Higher Education Committee Members.

But – and this is critically important – our work is not over! The amended bill may now be posted for a hearing at any time, and could be included on the agenda for the March 19 or March 26 hearings of the Higher Education Committee before the deadline to hear bills on March 28.

Please help ensure that Illinois lawmakers continue to hear from the people of Illinois that we will not give up our constitutional rights!

What you can do:

1)   Sign onto and widely circulate the on-line petitions to legislators!

 

2)   CALL LEGISLATORS AND LET THEM KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! (See Talking Points below.)

 

  • If you can make only one or two calls, contact:

FIRST:  State Senate President, John Cullerton (D). CALL (217) 782-2728

 

SECOND: Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, Senator Michael W. Frerichs (D). CALL (217) 782-2507.

 

  • If you can make a THIRD call, contact your State Senators that are members of the Higher Education Committee.

3)   Contact the Coalition if you are interested in setting up a meeting with your State Senator or would like to participate in a delegation to Springfield to attend the hearing about the bill. Details on this are still being worked out, but if you are interested please send your contact information to  akaroluk@cair.com now.

4)   Help spread the word.

  • Share this message as widely and as quickly as you can!
  • Try to get this information to people throughout the state…it important that this be a state-wide effort.
  • Send a letter to the editor in your local paper to express your opposition to this legislation.

 

TALKING POINTS – TELL STATE SENATORS:

I am calling to oppose the Higher Education Committee Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 3017.

This amendment proposes that the legislature defund an Illinois state university which provides funds for membership, travel or lodging for any employee to attend activities of an academic entity which has issued a public resolution or statement supporting boycotting a country which is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or higher education institutions in that country.

  • This bill is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has ruled that boycotts are protected First Amendment activities.
  • The State cannot deny funding to universities because certain legislators don’t like the views that faculty and staff are expressing through protected First Amendment activities like boycotts.
  • Legislative intrusion in academic decision-making undermines academics’ abilities to associate and exchange views with their colleagues.
  • It is fiscally irresponsible and unconstitutional to condition funding for the Illinois university system on the university’s censorship of academic associations’ political viewpoints.

Thank you for taking action! Our organized response can help prevent this legislation from moving forward. Let’s keep up the pressure!

 

 

The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech was formed in response to anti-boycott legislation introduced in the Illinois State Senate.  The Coalition 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.