BDS and Academic Freedom

Panelists: Professor Bill Mullen (Purdue), Radhika Sainath (Palestine Solidarity Legal Support), Sherry Wolf (International Socialist Review), Professor Ashley Dawson (College of Staten Island/Graduate Center, CUNY)

Moderator: Christopher Stone (Hunter/Graduate Center, CUNY)

April 2, 2014
Room C202-205, CUNY GC

This event will be livestreamed and recorded here:


Following the official endorsement of the American Studies Association of the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israel, concerns over “academic freedom” have been repeatedly invoked as reasons to oppose academic boycotts. Moreover, official statements by university presidents, attempts by New York, Maryland state legislatures, and now the US Congress, to outlaw such political affiliations demand that the significance of “academic freedom” and its functionality in the US university system be interrogated and reaffirmed.

This panel discussion specifically addresses the question of academic freedom and political affiliation from the different perspectives of academics and activists working with and around BDS in the US academe today. Panelists interrogate how the pursuit of “academic freedom” has been used to both open and close debate, how it frames the call for solidarity with Palestinian students and scholars, structures relationships with dissenting opinions, and how it applies in a US university system increasingly dependent on a contingent workforce of graduate students and adjunct labor.

Professor Bill Mullen is Professor of American Studies and English at Purdue.  He is a member of the Advisory Board for USACBI (United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) and faculty adviser to Purdue Students for Justice in Palestine.

Radhika Sanaith is a staff attorney at Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and Cooperating Counsel at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She is a contributor and co-editor of Peace Under Fire: Israel / Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement (Verso 2004).

Sherry Wolf  
is associate editor of the International Socialist Review, a member of Adalah-NY, the NY Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. She is also the author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket 2009).

Professor Ashley Dawson is Professor of English at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and at the College of Staten Island/CUNY.  He is the author of Mongrel Nation: Diasporic Culture and the Making of Postcolonial Britain (Michigan, 2007) and co-editor of Dangerous Professors: Academic Freedom and the National Security Campus (Michigan, 2009), among others. He is also the editor of Social Text Online and of the AAUP’s Journal of Academic Freedom.

Co-sponsored by: The Adjunct Project; American Studies Certificate Program; the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics; Critical Palestine Studies Association; Haymarket Books; International Socialist Organization at the Graduate Center; Latino and Latin-American Students Association (AELLA); Middle Eastern Studies Organization (MESO); Mise en Scene; Post-Colonial Studies Group; RevAmStudies Group; QUNY; Social and Political Theory Students’ Association; the Space Time Research Collective; and Thought Club.

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