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General Articles
Academic freedom and tenure and response

May 17, 2010
Jerusalem Post
By Maurice Ostroff


Academic freedom and tenure


The true meaning of academic freedom has been lost in the rumpus surrounding Mr. Tannebaum's courageous resignation as a governor of TAU because of the university President's undemocratic refusal to allow a vote about professors who advocate Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and the university. ("TAU board member to quit after failed effort to spur investigation of professors' activity," May 12). It highlights the necessity to distinguish between the democratic concept of free speech and academic freedom.
 
While general free speech permits the advocacy of opinions and ideologies, academic freedom is intended only to encourage academic research in a professor's field of expertise with the objective of always attempting to establish truth and understanding, without promoting one or other side of a contentious matter.
 
In "Save the World on Your Own Time", Professor Stanley Fish argues that there is but one proper role for academe in society: to advance bodies of knowledge and to equip students for doing the same. When teachers offer themselves as moralists, political activists, or agents of social change rather than as credentialed experts in a particular subject, they abdicate their true purpose.
 
From an academic point of view, the growing phenomenon of academics who preach rather than teach and who advocate BDS is objectionable; not because they criticize Israel, but because the unbalanced irrational arguments they use are completely irreconcilable with intellectual honesty. Moreover the blatant prejudice in their public utterances reflect badly on the universities they openly represent, where rigorous standards of unbiased scholarship should be expected
 
Evidently, when some professors turn to politics, they fail to distinguish between facts and their beliefs or assumptions. Relying on the security of their tenure they often bolster prejudiced opinions with arguments, so shoddy in scholarship, they would have precluded the attainment of tenure had they been expressed in their junior years.
 
In blocking Mr. Tanenbaum's attempts to deal with this matter, the TAU president is suppressing the very free speech that he grants to the academics who advocate BDS.

=========================================

 


                                                             From:  Michael Sherbourne, B.A.(Hons.London)
                                                                        32, Cissbury Ring South,
                                                                        Finchley,
                                                                         London,  N.12 7BE, England, UK
-- To:  The Editor,
          Jerusalem Post, Israel
   Sir,
 
      I fully agree with the letter from Mr.Maurice Ostroff, (J.P. 17.May, 2010) regarding what is called  "Academic Freedom" but which might more aptly, in this instance,
be referred to as "Academic Treachery".
 
      I feel that I have the right to thus express my opinion of the professors and teachers at a number of universities in Israel who are abusing their positions and professions by calling upon various organisations in the Western World not only to boycott Israel, and prevent the Jewish State from having intercourse with trade, academic and scientific international bodies, but in effect are calling for the delegitimization of the State of Israel itself.
 
      I claim this right as a man of 93 years of age, who had the distinction and the honour to serve in the newly formed Israel Army (IDF) during the War of Independence 1948-1949, as a member of "Machal" (Overseas Volunteers) in Hativah Sheva (Regimental Number 29685) in the battles for Latrun against the heavily armed Arab Legion (from Transjordan) under Major-General Glubb and I have been a Zionist since 1930, for the last 80 years.
 
      I cannot understand how otherwise intelligent and educated individuals are happy to bite the hands that feed them and willingly throw in their lot with the enemy when the country is in a state of war.  Yes, I repeat, a state of war, otherwise, logically speaking, why should there be all this talk of "Making Peace" ?  And I ask myself if they realise that what they are doing is TREASON and they are indeed fortunate that the Government of Israel, which they so abhor and despise, is so lenient to their activities and does not obstruct their treachery.
 
      Moreover they are following exactly the fable of "The Fox and the Scorpion" because if they are successful and the Scorpion does eventually sting the Fox, they will certainly lose their tenure and their salaries, as the Arabs will take over the universities and treat them in the manner that they did to those wonderful hot-houses that were left intact for them when Israel left the Gaza Strip, and within a matter of a few hours they were completely destroyed. 
 
      And meanwhile they are quite happy to receive their (no doubt) fat salaries from the Israeli taxpayer, while striving their utmost to destroy the Jewish State itself.
 
                                         Yours truly, Sir,
 
                                      Michael Sherbourne
    
 
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