Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

A Message from Scott Cowen - June 27, 2007

Dear Colleagues:

I wanted to write a personal note about an emerging international issue with implications for institutions of higher education the world over.

Recently, the University and College Union (UCU), the main union representing 120,000 British college professors, voted to consider a boycott of Israel's academic institutions to protest that country's Palestinian policies. Such a boycott could sever academic contacts and exchanges of students, scholars and ideas between British and Israeli academic institutions.

While the boycott resolution has yet to be approved or even voted on by the UCU's full membership, it is chilling that such a proposal is even being considered. There can be no justification for any group to attempt to punish a nation's higher education community because of disagreements it might have with a country's foreign policy. Imagine the impact on freedom and learning if higher education institutions around the world were threatened in such a manner. This proposed boycott is inimical to the values that define and differentiate the higher education community.

No matter what your political views on this or any other issue, it seems to me any fair-minded person would deplore such action especially since, in this case, it singles out one nation's universities, among all the world's institutions of higher education, for punitive action. Regardless of the issue, boycotting any country's academic institutions to protest a nation's policies is wrong and, ultimately, counterproductive to any desirable outcome. A boycott of any nation's institutions of higher learning prevents the debate and exchange of ideas upon which progress depends. Tulane University has long welcomed students and scholars from Israel and all other parts of the world, knowing that it is only through the free exchange and movement of ideas and people that knowledge and peace can replace ignorance and violence.

That is why I am joining leaders of universities from across the U.S. in signing this petition.

This petition states: "We are academics, scholars, researchers and professionals of differing religious and political perspectives. We all agree that singling out Israelis for an academic boycott is wrong. To show our solidarity with our Israeli academics in this matter, we, the undersigned, hereby declare ourselves to be Israeli academics for purposes of any academic boycott. We will regard ourselves as Israeli academics and decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded."

I encourage you to consider signing this petition yourself. This proposed attack on one country's higher education community threatens us all.


Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638