Academic Freedom Encompasses the Right to Boycott: Why the AAUP Should Support the Palestinian Call for the Academic Boycott of Israel

By Rima Najjar Kapitan

In its 2006 report elaborating on its reasons for rejecting academic boycotts, specifically the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the AAUP wrote, “In view of the Association’s longstanding commitment to the free exchange of ideas, we oppose academic boycotts.” It is not at all clear, however, that opposing the boycott of academic institutions that play central roles in the violation of human rights furthers the free exchange of ideas. I argue here that the AAUP should reassess its blanket opposition to academic boycotts, and that its position should be informed by its own conceptualization of academic freedom and human rights. The AAUP, courts, and academics alike all acknowledge that academic freedom is not absolute. To the extent that the freedom to speak in an academic setting is aimed at ensuring a free and vigorous democracy and human rights, there are certain extrinsic principles that justify the restriction of certain types of speech, among them being the rights of others. 

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