Monday, May 09, 2005

AUT ban on Israel continues but maybe not for long

Some more news about the AUT ban on interaction with Israeli universities. For those not familiar with the AUT they are the Association of University Teachers, Britain's largest Union for higher education professionals with approximately 48,700 members (according to their site). Not too long ago they proposed and accepted a formal ban on any interaction with any Israeli university (including their professors) that does not denounce the Israeli governments treatment of the Palestinians.

Why you ask did thy single out Israel of all places, well maybe this (a picture of Sue Blackwell, one of the main supporters for the boycott) can shed some light on it for you.

Anyways, the ban has been passed but even with it in place not everything is looking good for those who supported it in the first place. Little Green Footballs has links to two stories that show the problems you get when large organizations allow someone's personal vendettas create policy.

The first is this story about one of the root causes for the call to boycott the University of Haifa. The AUT claimed that it was at least partially due to the unfair treatment of a student who wrote and a professor who favorably graded a paper detailing the first hand accounts of a massacre against unarmed Palestinians. As it turns out, this was not the case. The problem with the students report, and the professors dogged defense of it, had more to do with the fact that much of the paper was not based on the first hand accounts (which there are audio tapes of) but in fact was apparently greatly embellished, and according to the student, by the professor's request. After being permitted to resubmit his paper for review by 5 separate (and anonymous) examiners, now rewritten to reflect what had actually been told to him, his amazing 97% turned into a failing grade.

The second story is a bit more reaffirming in that it talks about professor Gregory Gutin of the University of London who instead of attending by the AUT boycott, has instead decided to attend a conference at the university of Haifa. Even more telling is that his trip to the conference has fully approved by the head of department of computer science at the Royal Holloway.

Gutin told the Jerusalem Post that his visit:
“should show that not every member of AUT is going to accept the boycott.”
adding that the boycott is
"an expression of anti-Semitism," and "It has little to do with human rights, because otherwise they'd call for boycott of most universities in the world, including British ones for the war in Iraq. It says much more about some British academics rather than Israeli ones."

"They are very keen to condemn the only democratic country in the Middle East, and are happy to accept anything from the rest of the Middle East. The organizers of the boycott are not true scholars free from prejudice and are not objective,"

At least it's good to know that some of them still get it.

Some more good news is that it appears some more of the AUT members who think more like Gutin and less like Sue Blackwell have put a motion in place to reverse the boycott. According to Ms. Blackwell's info pages (you can follow the link above as I don't feel like directly linking to her):
So, apparently the thing to do when you lose the vote is to get a Special Council called to reverse the decision. If we all did that, where would AUT be? Jon Pike and co. have got 25 members of Council to sign up for their call, with the result that a Special Council has been called for 26th May, in London. Deadline for motions is 18th May. All supporters of the Palestinian call for boycott are urged to get themselves delegated to this important meeting - despite the fact that AUT time and resources could be better spent in our humble opinion.
It's called the democratic process Ms. Blackwell. If you have the votes, you get to make the rules. And if you pass a blatantly anti-Semitic motion few were expecting to actually pass don't be surprised if it causes people to wake up and take action. Good luck on the 26th Mr. Pike.
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Update: Look like Mr. Pike's motion was successful. See my follow up post here.

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