NY State Legislator Reintroduces Bill Threatening Academic Freedom & Free Speech on Campus Opposition to Bill Remains Strong
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 13, 2014
Donna Nevel - email@example.com, 917-570-4371
Leslie Cagan - 347-581-1782
NY State Legislator Reintroduces Bill Threatening Academic Freedom & Free Speech on Campus
Opposition to Bill Remains Strong
After an outpouring of protest forced New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to withdraw a bill earlier this month that would have trampled academic freedom and free speech, Speaker Silver has introduced a new bill that's virtually identical to the previous one. Both bills are a response to the recent resolution passed by American Studies Association's (ASA's) endorsing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
The new bill, A. 8392A, remains the same as the original in that public colleges are still barred from using public funds to support advocacy of a boycott. The only difference is in the degree of punishment. Under the new version, a violation results only in the loss of the amount that a college actually spends to support participation in activities of an organization that advocates a boycott. Opponents of the bill say that the extent of the punishment is beside the point. Like the original bill, the new one would bar New York from reimbursing organizational expenses on college and university campuses based on the content of the organization's speech, a clear violation of the First Amendment.
According to Maria LaHood, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, "Withholding any amount of state funding because the state disapproves of what faculty members say is a direct assault on our constitutionally protected right to free speech. Legislation that punishes protected speech because of its viewpoint, regardless of how it's drafted, violates the Constitution."
In a recent statement after the new bill was proposed, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) asserted that, "If enacted, such legislation will set a deplorable precedent for future legislation that might further reduce academic speech." And they called on university leaders to "publicly and forcefully oppose such legislation."
In addition to strong opposition coming from New York, a wide range of groups is also organizing in cities across the country in which similar legislation is cropping up.
The Ad Hoc Group in Support of Academic Freedom and the First Amendment - the coalition working to ensure the defeat of this or any similar legislation - includes the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, the National Lawyers Guild, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC - CUNY faculty union), Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, the American Studies Association and others. In addition, very strong work came from NYSUT (NY State United Teachers), AAUP, NY Civil Liberties Union, and many individuals.