Responding to the UCU calls in support of a boycott of Israeli universities
By Lancaster University Students Union, 31 May 2007
The following motion was passed as an emergency motion on 31/5/07 by the Union Council at Lancaster University Students' Union. The motion passed with no votes against it, though there were (as usual) a number of absentions.
Emergency Motion: Responding to the UCU calls in support of a boycott of Israeli universities
This union notes:
- On the 30th of May 2007, i.e. yesterday, the new lecturers union, the UCU, voted through a motion titled “Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions”
- The General Secretary of the UCU stated after the vote "I do not believe a boycott is supported by the majority of UCU members, nor do I believe that members see it is a priority for the union"
- Today, the National Postgraduate Committee to which we affiliate issued a press release (attached) noting their opposition to any moves towards an academic boycott and concerns about impact on both staff and students.
- The UK Parliamentary report on antisemitism discussed academic boycotts and concluded “that calls to boycott contact with academics working in Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange. We recommend that lecturers in the new University and College Lecturers Union are given every support to combat such selective boycotts that are anti-Jewish in practice. We would urge the new union’s executive and leadership to oppose the boycott.”
This union believes:
- An academic boycott is an affront to the principle of academic freedom, and to the rights of our students and staff to work with whoever they wish.
- The UCU’s motion that says “neutrality is unacceptable”, goes against the rights of students who are entitled to impartiality from academics regardless of their nationality.
- The UCU’s motion statement that “criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic”, which rejected an amendment to insert the word “some” before the word “criticism”, is in stark contradiction to the EU definition of antisemitism which notes that SOME criticism CAN be antisemitic in nature. The EU definition was adopted by NUS last conference and this council believes NUS conference, and the UK Parliamentary enquiry into antisemitism have the right of this matter.
This union resolves:
- To write the General Secretary of the UCU to express our opposition to an academic boycott and our concern that moves supporting such boycotts will be detrimental to our students and academic life in general. To express the desire that any future motions calling for a boycott be put to a membership ballot as is done over pay disputes. This is the only truly democratic approach, especially when the political elite of the union and the grass roots have different priorities and opinions on the matter.
- To write to the General Secretary of the NPC expressing our continued support of the NPC policy on this matter, and thanking NPC for taking a stand on behalf our and other member unions’ students.
- To write to the local branch of the UCU expressing our opposition to academic boycotts, our concern with the UCU motions wording, particularly as it relates to antisemitism, and our hope that the local branch will support LUSU in opposing move towards a boycott and do all it can with in the UCU structures. A copy of the letter to the UCU general secretary should be attached.
- To write to the NUS President supporting their position of opposition to the boycott and their concerns and thanking them for acting on behalf of our students.
- To mandate the union president to send the letters above after they have been draft and the draft text agreed to by the union’s student trustees and the union council chair and deputy chair.
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