In December 2013, the membership of the American Studies Association (ASA), by a 2-1 margin, voted to approve the ASA National Council’s earlier decision to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. A core criticism of the boycott put forth by opponents, particularly by university administrators, is that the boycott undermines academic freedom because it effectively bars the free exchange of ideas between ASA members and Israeli institutions.
As scholars, part of our academic freedom lies in the ability to not only engage in contentious debate or pursue provocative research but also to take controversial actions and positions. Few people knowledgeable of the inner workings of higher education would contend that academic freedom is a sacrosanct and inviolable dictum that governs the academy. In reality it is a principled ideal that attempts to thwart the excesses of control in the process of knowledge production and consumption.