Students demonstrate campus-wide support for ASA boycott opposition

Rebecca Savransky, Assistant Campus Editor

More than a month after Northwestern released a statement opposing the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel, more than 40 student leaders signed a leadership statement demonstrating their support for the University’s decision.

The statement, released Friday, was co-authored by Weinberg sophomore Jonathan Kamel, president of Wildcats for Israel, Weinberg junior Wilson Shirley and Bienen sophomore Harrison Flagler, two other members of the group. Kamel, a former Daily staffer, said he has been working on the statement since the beginning of the quarter as part of a joint effort with other members of Wildcats for Israel. The organization reached out to student group leaders across campus to encourage them to sign the pledge supporting the University’s decision, Kamel said.

“We felt that it was necessary to show widespread campus leader support for Northwestern’s resolution and stance on the American Studies Association’s boycott,” Kamel said. “We wanted to make sure that student leaders had the opportunity to voice their support of the statement and also our university’s partnerships with Israel.”

The statement received more than 40 signatures, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) and former U.S. Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.).

University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Dan Linzer released a statement in December rejecting the ASA boycott on grounds of academic freedom. The pair said the University would maintain its relationships with Israeli academic institutions. The ASA released a resolution Dec. 4 calling for a boycott of Israeli universities in protest of the negative effects the Israeli occupation has had on Palestinian academics.

(Northwestern to continue relationships with Israeli universities despite recent boycott calls)

The day after the students’ statement was released on Facebook, it had received more than 2,000 views and about 20 shares, Kamel said. He said the group has been receiving positive feedback about the document, with both NU students and groups from across the country sharing it through social media.

Many other universities have produced similar statements demonstrating campus-wide support of the boycott, Kamel said. Wildcats for Israel’s was modeled after a document released at the University of Pennsylvania. 

“I asked for their help in creating the document and strategy in getting their student leaders to sign on,” Kamel said.

This is the first time Wildcats for Israel has created a leadership statement, Kamel said. He said the organization has wanted to draft one before and the ASA boycott gave it a good opportunity to finally create one.

“We’ve been thinking about doing it for the last couple of years,” Kamel said. “We just haven’t found an issue we wanted to focus on.”

Joey Becker, president of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and a member of Wildcats for Israel, said he chose to sign the document as a way to support the fraternity’s chapters in Israel. He said the ASA boycott is an issue he feels passionately about.

“I think a university is a place where we should encourage an open dialogue from both sides,” Becker said. “Rather than boycotting, which is very extreme, we should be proposing looking at more of a conversation.”

Becker said although he thinks NU is not a very political campus, the document has the potential to open up further discussion about the issue. 

In December, 18 students from several multicultural student groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim-cultural Student Association, signed a letter opposing the University’s stance on the boycott.

(Campus diversity leaders oppose official Northwestern stance on ASA boycott)

Shirley said though there are a wide variety of opinions on the issue across campus, he thinks the statement represents the majority view at NU.

“We think it’s really important that not only the administration but the larger community realize that a lot of students stand behind that,” Shirley said. “We wanted to showcase that people from a diverse set of backgrounds are coming together.”

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