Statement from President Peter George

July 13, 2007

In light of the proposed academic boycott of Israeli universities called for by the University and College Union in Britain, I am compelled to state that academic freedom, freedom of inquiry and freedom of research specialization and association are some of the basic tenets of post-secondary education. I join with colleagues across Canada and around the world in deploring this call for an academic boycott.

Academic freedom and the attendant right to speak out is only one side of the coin. The other side is the responsibility to listen to colleagues, understand their points of view and concerns and work together respectfully to create dialogue. It is only through informed dialogue that education and research will lead to better understanding of the sources of discord and potential solutions to the underlying causes.

Respectful behaviour, unfettered access to scholarly inquiry, research and other scholars are hallmarks of universities. To attempt to silence the views of another is not acceptable in our scholarly community. Where differences exist, we must interact respectfully with each other to inform and educate. We must strive for informed dialogue and greater understanding.

Universities exist to explore our world and the possibilities that exist within it. Universities were created to better understand, indeed to strengthen society. An academic boycott would serve only to sever the connection of Israeli academics with the world we live in and would deny us their intellectual contributions. The proposed boycott would deny British scholars particular access to the rich panoply of Israeli research and scholarship, and Israeli scholars equivalent access to British scholars and scholarship. This boycott is short sighted in the extreme.

It is my fervent hope that our collective academic values and principles will prevail over misguided notions to impose boycotts and gags on legitimate academic exchange.