AEN held its Second National Conference May 15-17 in Chicago, Illinois. Over 120 people attended, including more than 75 faculty members representing colleges and universities across the US, as well as a wide range of academic disciplines.
The conference program featured keynote talks from leading thinkers on subjects related to the AEN’s mission:
University of Chicago Law School Professor Geoffrey Stone provided historical context to contemporary debates over free speech on campus and emphasized the importance of open exchange to the intellectual mission of universities.
Author and former member of Knesset Einat Wilf offered a progressive framework for understanding the history and contemporary politics of Israel.
Brandeis University Professor Ilan Troen, also the founding director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, refuted the claim that Israel can be understood as an example of “settler colonialism” by highlighting historical, political, and religious evidence connecting Jews with the land of Israel and demonstrating how Jewish migration to Israel was neither imperial nor colonial in form.
Israel Prize winner and Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at Northwestern University Ruth Gavison spoke about the compatibility of the Zionist idea with liberal democratic values.
Faculty members appeared on numerous panels at the conference to address a variety of issues, including their personal experiences fighting BDS campaigns on their campuses and in major professional organizations, current and projected trends for the BDS movement, free speech controversies on leading American campuses, balancing opposition to antisemitism and upholding free speech, and strategies for building alliances with diverse constituencies.
The conference closed with a session where faculty members began to develop customized action plans which assessed the environment on their campuses, outlined strategies that would make a positive impact, and identified resources which would help them achieve their goals. These action plans will be an important first step in working to create a climate of support and collaboration among faculty and students.
Finally, on May 18, twenty AEN faculty and staff members participated in an op-ed writing workshop led by the Op-Ed Project. This one-day seminar provided valuable training and information on how to formulate, structure, and articulate arguments in op-ed form and on how to pitch ideas effectively.
Based on initial feedback, AEN members found the conference to be intellectually engaging, and look forward to practically implementing the many ideas and strategies that were discussed.
Selected photos from the conference can be viewed at AEN’s Facebook page.