President Lee C. Bollinger Statement on Anti-Boycott Legislation

February 07, 2014

I am pleased to see that anti-boycott legislation is no longer being considered by the State Assembly’s Higher Education Committee.  I strongly urge that the bill not be reintroduced and hope that this action marks the end of a misguided legislative effort that would have undermined academic freedom.   

Whatever one’s views regarding the various proposed boycotts of Israeli scholars and universities (my own opposition to such boycotts over the years is a matter of record), it is essential that these opinions be expressed through the exercise of First Amendment rights in a public forum, not through enactment of laws infringing free speech.  My fellow Columbia faculty members had it precisely right when they argued in their letter to the Assembly that the curbs on free speech contained in the anti-boycott legislation appear to violate the U.S. Constitution, as it has been interpreted for decades, and would degrade the academic freedom long cherished not only at Columbia but across all of American higher education.