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UCT’s Max Price says an academic boycott is a long way off

  • NicolaMaxPrice
Dr Max Price, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), told the Jewish Report there was a long way to go before a decision would be made about an academic boycott of Israel.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Sep 14, 2017

The matter is still with the first committee, namely the Academic Freedom Committee (AFC) which is still considering two long presentations that were made to it recently by The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and the Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF).

The AFC will debate the idea of an academic boycott and make recommendations to the Senate, he explained. The Senate will then advise UCT about its discussion. 

Price says academic freedom was a global concern.

“My personal position is that there should never be an academic boycott anywhere and this coincides with the position of UCT up till now. Things can change depending on the debate.

“We should be concerned about academic freedom globally. This year we have been called upon to re-think our position as a university,” he said.

He insisted that this is an institutional issue, not a personal one.

The idea of an academic boycott will be rigorously debated. The AFC will consider things like restrictions placed on both Palestinian university students and Israeli students.

“Academic freedom is important anywhere in the world,” Price stressed. He mentioned that there were travel restrictions at Palestinian universities where visitors are searched and sometimes detained.

Likewise, at certain Israeli universities, some Israeli students face victimisation for their opposing views.

“They are ostracised by their university administrations for supporting boycotts. At some universities, there is an infringement of academic freedom for even debating the issue of a boycott.”

When a university gets a formal request from a student body, like the PSF for an academic boycott it is not torn up and thrown away, it gets seriously considered.

Said Price: “The debate will centre around the principle of an academic boycott. It’s not primarily about Israel and Palestine - this will only start once you decide a boycott has a role to play.”

National chairman of SAUJS, Gabriel Zollmann, said the student body was waiting for the outcome of the AFC’s debate.

“UCT should reject the proposal of an academic boycott against Israel, as proposed by the PSF,” said Zollmann. “Boycotts targeting the academic institutions of any particular country are discriminatory and politically motivated.

“They unavoidably violate the fundamental principles of academic freedom which underpins the entirety of the academic profession. An academic boycott of Israel poses a great risk to academic freedom, resources and the quality of intellectual discourse and it undermines dialogue necessary for achieving peace.”   

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