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State right to drop all support for American Studies Association [Letter]

Colleges and UniversitiesJohns Hopkins UniversityMaryland General Assembly

I would like to disagree with your editorial "A chilling effect" (March 10). I believe that the central issue here is academic freedom. The American Studies Association (ASA), in theory an academic organization devoted to the study of the United States, has violated the essence of academic freedom, which is based on the free flow of ideas, by supporting a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. By calling for the elimination of ties with Israeli colleges and universities, the ASA has taken a political stand which undermines academic freedom.

Since academic freedom is a major value upheld by the state of Maryland, the Maryland Legislature has both the right and responsibility to penalize academic institutions within Maryland which receive funding if they assist, either directly or indirectly, the ASA boycott effort. Financial support to travel to ASA conferences is a clear example of that support, as is institutional membership in the ASA. While individual professors are free to advocate whatever positions they wish, Maryland colleges and universities cannot be seen as aiding a boycott which suppresses free speech, which is the essence of academic freedom.

Robert O. Freedman, Baltimore

The writer is Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Baltimore Hebrew University and a visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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