There are a number of serious and fierce debates regarding the many conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not appropriate for me, as the Provost of New York University, to engage in these in my official capacity. As Provost, however, I can speak to two main areas of concern: the University's posture towards the public call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and of Israeli academics; and Professor Lockman's signing of the letter posted at www.academicboycott.org.
Professor Lockman has made clear (www.nyu.edu/publicaffairs/newsreleases/lockman.shtml) that he does not advocate a boycott either of Israeli scholars or of Israel's academic institutions. The letter he signed was poorly constructed, its wording inadequately precise, and so his signing of it unclear as to his intentions. His letter now clarifies his actual position that he does not advocate or support a boycott.
The University's position on calls for a boycott is similarly clear. It stands firm against any such boycott, which by its very nature runs counter to the essence of the University, and to the values to which New York University in particular is committed. Our view is that the University is a sacred space that encourages open, free and continuous dialogue free from fear of recrimination. This vision applies to the activities of the Kervorkian Center, whose academic activities include the study of Israel, its history, culture, politics and place in the world; the Krevorkian Center, moreover, regularly hosts leading Israeli scholars.
At the heart of the University's commitment to the free and open exchange of ideas is the principle of academic freedom. No University can survive or fulfill its important social roles without a firm commitment to the principle that scholars are free to pursue their research and scholarly collaborations and responsibly to express their ideas without fear of persecution or recrimination because of the unpopularity or controversial nature of the positions they embrace or express. Just as there might be some faculty at NYU who support the idea of a boycott, there are others who are firmly opposed. It is hardly uncommon for individual members of our faculty to disagree with University policy; and I take this as a sign of our strength and vibrancy. The creation of a space where ideas may be freely exchanged and debated is at the heart of one of the University's most important contributions to society, and so the University protects and secures its faculty's right responsibly to express their views whether or not those views coincide with the University's.