President's Blog

On academic boycotts

Several colleagues have asked what I think about the American Studies Association’s resolution to boycott Israeli universities.  My short answer: it is a terrible idea.

As I wrote in this blog last month, I believe the world is made better by engaging with all peoples, even when doing so can put us in between peoples in conflict.

As I expressed in the Washington Post yesterday, universities exist to build bridges of understanding, not to blow them up.  As scholars we seek truth by engaging not with those who share our views but with those who do not.

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, of which George Mason University is a member, issued a statement, which I endorse.  The free exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of a university.  Boycotts of the kind supported by the ASA would threaten our ability to exchange ideas that can ultimately help us build a more peaceful, just and prosperous world.

But, just like I oppose ASA’s proposed boycott to Israeli universities, I also oppose the suggestion made by some that we boycott ASA. Boycotting the boycotter would not undo a wrong.  It would double it up. Nonsense.