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  • Latest Updates
  • Member Writings
  • Campus Updates
  • Upcoming Initiatives

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March 2017 Newsletter

Latest Updates

AEN now has 436 members on 173 campuses across the country. In February, we recruited 20 new faculty members on 10 campuses.

AEN Convening and Meetings in Cleveland
On March 15, AEN held a convening in Cleveland, OH, which consisted of a lunch meeting with Cleveland-area AEN faculty. AEN also participated in other meetings and events in Cleveland, including a meeting with Tracy Turoff (General Legal Counsel of Hillel International), Jared Isaacson (Director of Cleveland Hillel), and President Barbara Snyder of Case Western Reserve University; a meeting with representatives of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland; and the Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Federation's Community Relations Committee, at which Mark Yudof appeared on a panel addressing free speech on campuses.

Pictured, from left: Blake Morant (George Washington University Law School); Susan Kruth (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education); Mark Yudof (AEN).
AEN Convening in Los Angeles
On February 23, AEN hosted a faculty convening in Los Angeles. The convening included a luncheon with graduate students and Jewish Studies faculty at UCLA, a meeting with UCLA administrative staff responsible for implementing the UC Regents Principles Against Intolerance, and an evening meeting at the UCLA Hillel for all LA-area faculty members.

AEN Executive Director Ken Waltzer and Senior Research Associate Linda Maizels also met with senior administrators from UC-Irvine and UCLA and with the Chancellor and senior officials at UC-Riverside to provide strategic guidance in efforts by these institutions to implement the UC Regents’ Principles Against Intolerance.


Pictured, from left: Mark Kligman (UCLA); Vanessa Schwartz (University of Southern California); Holli Levitsky (Loyola Marymount University).
Ken Waltzer in Texas
On February 27, Ken gave an invited lecture at the University of North Texas (UNT) entitled "Understanding Antisemitism of the Left and of the Right," which was hosted by UNT's Jewish and Israel Studies Program, the Departments of History and Political Science, and the Jewish Federations of Dallas and Fort Worth.

Ken also gave a presentation
 hosted at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, TX, entitled “BDS and the American Campus.” The event was co-sponsored by the local JCRC, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, and UNT Jewish and Israel Studies.

Microgrant Events
The following events were hosted by AEN members with the support of AEN microgrants: 

On February 27, Amy Elman, Professor of Political Science at Kalamazoo College, hosted Yael Aronoff, Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Michigan State University. Aronoff offered an in-class lecture on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the last 15 years, starting with Camp David for Elman's winter Political Science course, "Israeli Politics: Constructing and Reconstructing Israel." The lively in-class discussion continued through the dinner that followed, with topics including regional tourism, the Bedouin community, the BDS movement, the role of foreign workers, and the experience of growing up in Israel.

Aronoff followed this talk with a public lecture later that evening entitled, “Israel’s Wars with Hamas: Dilemmas of Asymmetric Conflicts,” which was attended by approximately 60 students, a dozen faculty, and about that many members of the larger off-campus Kalamazoo community. The talk focused on the challenges faced by Israel in fighting a non-traditional war and emphasized how current international law is insufficient in dealing with modern wars and conflicts. Students, in particular, were impressed with Aronoff’s knowledge and the way in which she discussed such complex topics in an accessible, nuanced manner.
On March 5-7, Rachel Harris, Associate Professor of Israeli Literature and Culture in Comparative and World Literature and the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, hosted a conference bringing together scholars and critics of Israeli cinema and women’s studies with women directors who are transforming the Israeli film landscape. Events included a talk about a project to document women's involvement in the Israeli film industry, a film screening and Q and A session on women's history in a development town, and a series of academic talks about women's contributions to film globally.

The conference was incredibly successful. Attendees at the conference events (ranging from 25 to more than 100 people) represented a diverse array of backgrounds and academic disciplines, including History, French, Spanish and Portuguese, Comparative Literature, Engineering, English, Anthropology, and Jewish Studies. Both faculty and students have expressed interest in further studying Israeli cinema in a comparative perspective. 
On March 6, Lin Batsheva Kahn, a professor at the Theatre School of DePaul University, hosted a return visit by Miriam Engel and Sergey Shamota from Angela Dance Company (which is based in Jerusalem). Engel and Shamota taught a master class, performed in a concert (followed by a Q and A session), and participated in DePaul's annual Friday night dinner "Shabbat 100". They interacted with approximately 150 students, and Kahn intends to invite them back to DePaul annually.
On March 7, Steven Davidoff Solomon, Professor of Law at UC-Berkeley, along with the Jewish Law Students Association, hosted Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist who is an outspoken critic of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement. Mr. Eid gave a luncheon talk to more than thirty students and community members, where he emphasized that BDS stems from a hatred of Israel rather than any attempt to benefit the Palestinians.

Member Writings

In the Times of Israel, Ken Waltzer analyzed the landscape of contemporary antisemitism, from both the left and right side of the political spectrum. "Today there is a new antisemitism in the United States on the hard left and also a newly revitalizing old antisemitism on the marginal right. Both are present on the American campus." 

In Inside Higher Ed's piece on the new Israeli amendment barring foreign proponents of boycotts of Israel from entering the country, Ilan Troen and Cary Nelson were quoted in principled opposition to the law. "Inhibiting the movement of scholars is fundamentally contrary to the values of an enlightened academy."

In contrast, Miriam Elman (who was also mentioned in the IHE piece) argued in a Legal Insurrection post in favor of the law, claiming that there is "no nation in the world that issues visas to people who seek to delegitimize, vilify, and harm its citizenry and agitate for the destruction of the host country."

In Real Clear Politics, Charles Lipson condemned the mob that violently disrupted a talk by Charles Murray at Middlebury College, and urged the administration to take decisive action. "On campus after campus, they have produced a soft despotism and ideological conformity that threaten the core mission of higher education...This decline can be reversed, but only if enough students, faculty, alumni, and boards of trustees push back and if state legislatures demand free speech in public institutions."

In Commentary, Jonathan Marks concurred, emphasizing the importance of consequences for those who shut down Murray's talk. "If...yet another group is permitted to shut down a speaker without any consequence, then Middlebury’s initial stance in favor of free speech and inquiry, however admirable, will have been proven empty."


We know that our members have lots to say and share about developments in the US, Israel, and around the world. If you are writing, speaking, blogging, or tweeting, please let us know! We will link to your work.

Campus Updates

The spring semester usually sees heightened pro-BDS activity on campuses, and this year is no different.

BDS Defeats
Fortunately, a number of BDS campaigns have been rejected in the past month.
 
At Georgetown University, the Committee on Investment and Social Responsibility (CISR) rejected a proposal to divest from companies which "knowingly and consistently enable and profit from the violent Israeli occupation of Palestine."

At Ohio State University, an anti-Israel divestment referendum failed by a vote of 4,084 to 3,843. The lead-up to the vote was marked by a number of campaign violations and voting irregularities, although an anti-BDS coalition, Protect OSU, proved to be effective.
 
At the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, a BDS referendum failed by a vote of 3,627 to 2,762. Throughout the campaign, AEN coordinated daily with Richard Herman, an AEN senior consultant and the former chancellor of UIUC, and Richard was in frequent communication with current senior administrators in his capacity as Senior Counselor of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF). AEN member Cary Nelson also gave support and advice to some of the student activists.
 
Potential BDS Campaigns
AEN is monitoring a potential pro-BDS faculty resolution at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, which may be introduced on April 3. A student resolution in favor of BDS passed in student government on March 10.

We are also monitoring an upcoming pro-BDS referendum in Columbia College's Student Council, and AEN faculty at Columbia are preparing to play a role in defeating divestment again


Cooperation between the University of California and Israel
The University of California (UC) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israel Innovation Authority, with the goal of increasing cooperation between the two institutions in order to foster technological advances and further environmental and technological development and research.

ACTA Report on BDS and Academic Freedom
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has released a report entitled "Campus Free Speech, Academic Freedom, and the Problem of the BDS Movement," which investigates the "threat to academic freedom, civic discourse, and free speech posed by the [BDS] movement" and recommends actions that trustees and governing boards can take to protect academic freedom. The report excerpts from AEN's mission statement, and cites our Guide and Resource Book for University Leaders multiple times.

Mark Yudof praised the report, stating that "the ACTA analysis of the BDS movement and academic freedom on university campuses is superb. The essay provides trustees and regents with the knowledge they need to understand the challenges to free speech and the troublesome underpinnings of the BDS movement. The authors also illuminate the legal context in which campus speech issues arise. This essay is a reliable reference work for governing boards.”

Upcoming Initiatives

AEN National Conference
AEN will hold its second National Conference May 15-17, 2017, in Chicago, IL. We are excited about our conference program, which will include keynote talks by author and former member of Knesset Einat Wilf, University of Chicago Law School Professor Geof Stone, and Brandeis University Professor and founding director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies Ilan Troen. Panels will address a variety of issues, including free speech controversies, shifts in the political and cultural climate on campus, and current and projected trends for BDS campaigns.

Invitations for the conference - complete with details about locations and schedules - were sent to AEN members last week. Please let us know if you did not receive an invitation. At outlined in the invitation letter, we have also been able to raise the subsidy for transportation costs to AEN members from $200 to $300.  


AEN Website Redesign
AEN is in the process of redesigning and organizing its website to maximize ease of navigation and utility to its visitors. If you have any feedback about the current site, or have ideas on resources or information which would be helpful to include, please let us know at raeefa@academicengagement.org.

Microgrant Events
These upcoming events have all been funded by AEN microgrants and sponsored by AEN members:

April 1-2: "We Are One People: Sephardic and Judeo-Arab Music"

Martin Shichtman, Professor of English and Director of Jewish Studies at Eastern Michigan University, will organize an event to draw on the work and performances of anthropologist/musicologist Dr. Galeet Dardashti. The event will include a public lecture by Dardashti on “Arab/Jewish Artistic Coexistence,” and her group will then perform the following day at a nearby venue in Ann Arbor, MI.

April 6: "A New Look at the Arab-Israeli War of 1948"

Amy Elman of Kalamazoo College will host renowned Israeli historian Benny Morris for a lecture on Israel's War of Independence that is open to the entire campus and wider community.

AEN microgrants are available to AEN members in amounts up to $4,000. The purpose of these grants is to support faculty- and staff-developed educational initiatives that address issues related to modern Israel. We wish particularly to encourage innovative and creative initiatives, with special consideration given to those that envision collaboration with multiple academic departments that will impact students, faculty, and the broader campus community. If you are interested in applying for an AEN microgrant, please fill out the application, with as much specific information about your event or initiative as possible, here.


AEN Speakers Bureau
On April 25, Cary Nelson, a member of AEN's Speakers Bureau, will give a lecture at William Patterson University on BDS and antisemitism. 

Speakers are available in Spring 2017 to give public talks, followed by a class or seminar with faculty and students. We encourage AEN members to take advantage this great resource.  If interested, please fill out a short application here.

The complete list of speakers, including their areas of expertise, can be found here


As always, we would like to highlight our members' activities. If you would like to share any information about AEN-related work on your campus, please let us know at raeefa@academicengagement.org.
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