Statement on Antisemitism and Racism Bills

By Gregory F. Scholtz

In March, the AAUP published a statement by a subcommittee of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure that addresses recent partisan efforts in state legislatures to enact bills targeting teaching about Israel and about the history of racism in the United States. The statement notes that “conservative politicians have justified restrictive legislation” on these two topics “under the guise of protecting students from harm.” With regard to Israel, legislation “defines antisemitism to include political criticism of the state of Israel.” With regard to racism, legislation “defines critical analysis of the history of slavery and its legacies in US society as being itself racially discriminatory against whites.”

Following a critique of Florida bills on these subjects, the statement concludes, “Proponents of overly broad definitions of antisemitism and proponents of eliminating teaching about the history of racial and other violence” are attempting “to mobilize the government to enforce particular, emaciated accounts of history, harm, and injury.” In addition, when politicians mandate curricular content, they “prevent colleges and universities from fulfilling their missions,” undermine academic freedom, and frustrate the faculty’s ability to play “a primary role in academic decision-making.” The statement closes by urging “the defeat of these legislative initiatives and others of their kind in order to protect the academic freedom that is vital to the preservation of democracy.”