Boycott a matter of academic freedom: Hitchcock

Principal’s stance requires dialogue, professor says

For English professor Margaret Pappano, Principal Karen Hitchcock’s condemnation of the proposed British boycott of Israeli universities contravened University procedure.

Hitchcock’s comments “will potentially threaten those who want to go abroad,” Pappano told the Journal.

Earlier this year, the UK and College Union announced its intention to boycott Israeli universities because of inequities towards Palestinians.

On July 6, Hitchcock issued a statement condemning the proposed boycott and stating she would request Queen’s to be added to the British boycott list if the proposal against Israeli universities were carried out.

Hitchcock said she made her comments on behalf of academic freedom. She said her statement was misinterpreted by the Queen’s Coalition against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (QCRED) in their letter to the Toronto Star opposing her response.

“I was speaking to the mechanism that was being proposed, not talking about pro-Israel sentiments,” she said. “[The letter] conflates of those issues of academic freedom in casting my comment of being pro Israel. … I’ve tried to take politics out of the situation.”

Hitchcock said she didn’t call a public forum to discuss the University’s stance on the boycott because “academic freedom is a value cherished by everyone,” adding that making a statement on behalf of academic freedom is part of her job at the University.

Pappano told the Journal QCRED’s letter was responsible.

“They ... pointed out the inconsistencies in the way that Hitchcock’s condemnation of a potential boycott of Israel was representing,” she said.

“Why issue that statement that implies a potential threat to academic freedom of Israelis when there already is a very serious threat to academic freedom of Palestinians?

“Even if you want to say a boycott is always wrong, is it more wrong than bombing a university or setting up a checkpoint in front of the university gates that takes students three to four hours to get through?”

Hitchcock said she would sponsor a forum to open a dialogue within the campus community, but won’t withdraw her comments against the proposed British boycott.

“I think this is a very important dialogue that the institution needs to engage in,” she said. “The issue of academic freedom is one that defines us.”

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