NYSC letter NYS Assembly Members opposing bill A9036 - 03/20/16

Dear NYSC/AAUP Leadership Group,

Below you'll find a draft of a letter to the NYS Assembly regarding the bill we have been discussing.  While I'm at it I wanted to fill you in on the genesis of this effort.  I was contacted some time ago by Andrew Ross, the Chapter President at NYU, about joining a coalition of varied organizations to muster opposition to the bill.  While there is merit in joining our voice to the other groups who are involved, it has become clear that the statement that is being promulgated might be distracting from the larger issue.  So, it seems best that we make a statement of our own and share that with others so that it is clear where we stand without necessarily endorsing a particular political endeavor.

As I assume you know, this issue arose due to a professional academic society's decision to call for a boycott of Israeli universities due to the Israel-Palestine conflict.  In response to that organization's resolution, several university presidents across the country declared that they would deny funds for institutional membership in the organization and that they would not fund any faculty who wished to attend future conferences of the group, regardless of whether or not the professor supported the proposition.  Furthermore, members of various state legislatures initiated resolutions aimed at denying all state funds to any college or university that financed faculty participation in or attendance at the organization's conferences or for institutional membership.

In New York State the legislative initiative has found expression in a bill identified as NYS Assembly A9036.  The effect of the legislation would be to put the legislature in the position of evaluating the merits of a political and academic matter and use its funding power to punish those whose views it objects to.  Regardless of one's position on the political conflicts in the Middle-East or elsewhere, the implications of the bill go far beyond any particular concern by granting the legislature the authority to, in effect, sensor what topics one can discuss or organizations one can participate in.

So, I have drafted for your consideration the following letter and in doing so have tried to focus solely on the principles of academic freedom that underlie the most essential elements of our endeavors.

I appreciate the robust discussion we have been having so far and look forward to hearing more views on this vital matter.

In solidarity,

David Linton
President, NYSC/AAUP

Draft letter:

Dear [member of New York State Legislative Assembly]:

I am writing to you on behalf of the members of the New York State Conference of the American Association of University Professors to express our deep concern regarding provisions of a piece of legislation that we understand is currently under consideration, Assembly A9036. 

As an organization representing thousands of faculty and other professional employees at colleges and universities across the state, we view with alarm the implications of the proposed bill.  As currently drafted, it would place elected officials in the position of evaluating the merits of academic discussions and affiliations, in effect turning the state governing bodies into censors.  Using the funding authority of the legislature as a means of extracting compliance with specific political views would, in effect, stifle the free exchange of opinions and have the exact opposite effect that the academic environment is meant to foster.

While we respect the strong views that individuals have on issues of public concern, we urge you not to deny their full exploration by imposing a gag order on those whose views you might take issue with.  Democracy it at its best when all voices can be heard.

Respectfully,

David Linton, Ph.D., President
New York State Conference of the American Association of University Professors

Comments
  • on Mon 21st March 2016 12:30am by James Davis

    I support.

    Thank you for shepherding us through the process, David and Tom.

    James Davis, Brooklyn College

  • on Mon 21st March 2016 01:30am by Jeffrey Baker

    I appreciate using the forum rather than e-mail. I believe this type of discourse was its intended purpose.

    I very much agree with the content of the statement. I suggest that the language be simplified. We are dealing with politicians who do not have much sympathy for education and it would be easy for them to label us "eggheads" as some did in the latter part of the last century.

    Jeff

  • on Wed 23rd March 2016 02:39pm by Tom Policano

    Draft Letter 2

    To all members of the New York State Legislative Assembly and Senate:

    We are writing to you on behalf of the members of the New York State Conference of the American Association of University Professors to express our deep concern regarding provisions two related pieces of legislation that we understand is currently under consideration, Assembly A9036 and Senate S6378-A.

    As an organization representing thousands of faculty and other professional employees at colleges and universities across the state, we view with alarm the implications of the proposed bill.  As currently drafted, it would place elected officials in the position of evaluating the merits of academic discussions and affiliations, in effect turning the state governing bodies into censors.  Using the funding authority of the legislature as a means of extracting compliance with specific political views would, in effect, stifle the free exchange of opinions and have the exact opposite effect that the academic environment is meant to foster.

    While we respect the strong views that individuals have on issues of public concern, we urge you not to deny their full exploration by imposing a gag order on those whose views you might take issue with.  Democracy it at its best when all voices can be heard.

    Respectfully,

    David Linton, Ph.D.
    President
    dlinton@mmm.edu
    646-670-8636

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