On the University and College Union‘s Activists List, Harry Goldstein (UCL) responds to boycotters’ defence of Norway’s University of Bergen for giving official consideration to an institution-wide boycott of Israel:
xxxx, I think you and xxxx are both being disingenuous.
What would it mean for an institution to ‘take a stance’ on this issue?
Would it (a) mean that the institution bans its employees from making an academic judgement to collaborate with Israeli academics? In which case would the academics be vulnerable to disciplinary action for breaches of this ban? And if this were the case, would UCU support the academic’s freedom to make an academic judgement, or would it support management’s right to override that judgement and punish the academic for making it?
Would it (b) mean that the institution merely ‘suggests’ that such collaborations would be frowned on? In this case would UCU support any academic concerned that their career prospects might suffer if they ignored such ‘suggestions’, as clearly any such detriment to career prospects would amount to victimisation?
Would it (c) mean that the institution encouraged demonstrations or other hostility against the ‘offending’ academic? If this is so, it would amount to intimidation by management of an academic/employee going about his or her legitimate work.
If it meant none of the above, then it is hard to know what such a stance could possibly mean.
It’s really not good enough to say that they’re only having the debate. UCU is not usually so laid back about management ‘merely’ discussing things. For example, discussing attacks on employment security, pay and conditions, etc.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that you are happy for management to attack their employees’ academic freedom provided it is in pursuit of one of your own pet causes.
We will remember this next time you complain about the (alleged) pressures on dissenting Israeli academics.
Reproduced with the author’s permission.