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An open exchange of ideas

- June 26, 2007

Freedom of inquiry and expression, central values of universities around the world, are meaningless without freedom of association. The proposed boycott of Israeli universities under review by BritainÕs University and College Union (UCU) represents a gross violation of these essential notions. A tiny fraction of the UCUÕs 120,000 members, by a vote of 158 to 99, have raised concerns which merit strong condemnation.

Universities do not have foreign policies and they must assert their right always to be independent of government dictates in the name of short-term political agendas. Individual scholars must be free to pursue their research and their ideas with colleagues freely chosen across the world. Ironically, the UCUÕs leader recently rejected a proposed British government invitation to tackle violent extremism, urging its members to Òoppose government attempts to restrict academic freedom or free speech on campus. Lecturers want to teach students. If they wanted to police them, they would have joined the force.” The suggestion that British professors should boycott universities and scholars from other countries surely sits poorly with this sentiment.

Faculty, staff and students at Dalhousie University have a network of global relationships with counterparts who come from diverse social, political and ideological environments. These relationships persist despite such differences because of our common commitment to the open exchange of ideas, a basic freedom that is central to all learning and discovery.

Tom Traves
President and Vice-Chancellor
Dalhousie University

For further reading, see: Slamming Israel, giving Palestinians a free pass in The Economist


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