Stand up for academic freedom: Vote No

As current and former members of the University of Waterloo Federation of Students, we write to voice our opposition to the “Sever Ties” referendum which will take place via an online vote from January 25-27, 2016. We urge all students to consider the impact of this resolution, if passed, on the campus climate and academic opportunities.

Academic boycotts are counterproductive, discriminatory, and do not further peace. They are not progressive. They reject international consensus positions on peace and push forward only the most strident demands of the rejectionist camp. Academic boycotts punish Israelis and Palestinians, and stymie efforts to reach across divides, engage in productive dialogue, and build mutual trust. Moreover, boycotts reject basic academic values by opposing co-operation between scholarly institutions and preventing the free exchange of ideas within academia. Finally, boycotts such as these manipulate and selectively present facts to delegitimize Israel, and only Israel. This position effectively ignores and overlooks the most egregious human rights violations currently taking place in the Middle East and around the world.

Support for academic boycotts in this case is unworthy of our union.

Severing ties with Israeli universities will violate the Feds’ fundamental principles of democracy, transparency, and solidarity. By promoting an academic boycott against Israel, Feds will stigmatize and isolate students and faculty members who are Israeli, who conduct research in Israel, or collaborate with Israeli academics and institutions. We are saddened that members of our student union would undermine the academic opportunities of peers — not to mention the global standing of the University of Waterloo as a first-rate research institution — to pursue political gains unrelated to Feds’ core mission.

It is essential to note that this resolution, if passed, would bar University of Waterloo students and academics from working with Israeli institutions of higher learning in any capacity. Severing ties with Israeli institutions means that students will lose access to leading institutions, eliminating internship and job opportunities in science, engineering, technology, and other critical fields.

We are proud of the University of Waterloo administration for taking a principled stance against these boycotts in the past, and urge them to continue to reject calls for divestment from Israel.

We urge all members of Feds to join us — as well as the University of Waterloo administration, over 250 university administrations, Nobel laureates, and the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau — in categorically rejecting proposals to support academic and cultural boycotts of Israel on campus. We ask everyone to make their voices heard by voting NO to the “Sever Ties” referendum on January 25th, 26th, and 27th.

Valerie Michailovich

4B Biomedical Sciences


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