In three recent instances, the presidents of Pitzer College, Cornell University, and the University of Michigan separately stepped in to prevent, and in one case to punish, efforts by faculty and/or students to institute boycotts of Israel. While all three acted commendably, and two explicitly acknowledged the intrinsic bigotry of such boycotts, K.C. Johnson cautions against hoping their counterparts elsewhere will act similarly:
Relying on university leaders to do the right thing . . . is an inherently risky strategy. Administrators are notoriously disinclined to stand on principle. . . . In an environment where Democratic members of Congress are reviving anti-Semitic tropes or backing the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS)—even as applied to academic exchange programs—university leaders seem unlikely to continue to check passionate BDS advocates. That’s especially so given that the internal pressure on university administrators seems likely to intensify. . .
A sounder approach is more aggressive resistance to BDS efforts from other campus constituencies, for which some models exist. . . . [Last week], San Francisco State University settled a lawsuit filed by two Jewish students who alleged religious discrimination in one of the nation’s most virulently anti-Israel campus environments. The university agreed to spend $200,000 on “educational efforts to promote viewpoint diversity (including but not limited to pro-Israel and Zionist viewpoints).” The school also released a statement reiterating “its commitment to equity and inclusion for all—including those who are Jewish,” and affirming “the values of free expression and diversity of viewpoints that are so critical on a university campus.”
The [successful faculty-led effort to combat a BDS resolution at the American Historical Association] and the experience at San Francisco State show how how faculty and students can successfully resist BDS efforts—albeit at considerable cost in terms of time and resources. But absent such efforts on behalf of the academic freedom of students and professors who want to engage with Israeli institutions, administrative opposition to BDS seems likely to give way—despite the recent, commendable trend.