Another important development in the University of Michigan/Alice Walker imbroglio: the university faculty’s executive body has unanimously adopted a resolution expressing sharp concern about the university’s disinvitation of the scholar from a speaking engagement there, evidently because of her views on Israel.
During a meeting Monday, the Faculty Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs unanimously approved the following statement:
“SACUA expresses concern about the potential damage done to the reputation of the University of Michigan and its faculty by the appearance of insensitivity to principles of academic freedom stemming from the disinvitation of Alice Walker as speaker for the CEW.”
Karen Staller, a U-M social work professor who chairs the committee, declined to elaborate on the resolution via email.
The story has also been picked up by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
On Monday, the University of Michigan Faculty Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) unanimously passed a resolution expressing concerns about the recent “disinvitation” of Alice Walker as the speaker chosen for the upcoming Center for the Education of Women (CEW) 50th Anniversary celebration. According to the faculty resolution, the action’s seeming insensitivity to principles of academic freedom may harm the University’s reputation.Disinviting Alice Walker has other implications, too. Across the United States, student Palestine solidarity activists are intimidated and sometimes even punished by their own universities for supporting Palestinian self-determination. Last July, the student representative on the University of California Board of Regents was attacked by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in part because she had previously co-sponsored a bill calling for the divestment of university funds from companies with economic ties to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Within the last week, student activists at Florida Atlantic University received sanctions – including probation until graduation and a ban on holding leadership positions in student organizations – for peacefully protesting an event featuring Israeli Colonel Bentzi Gruber.Institutions of higher learning are meant to be bastions of critical thinking. They should create learning environments that encourage students to uncover and celebrate the truth. They should not let special interests – or their donors – set the agenda. At a time when student activists are being targeted for promoting Palestinian self-determination, it is even more important for institutions like the University of Michigan to repudiate unequivocally attempts by those outside the University community to use the University as a platform to censor information or controversial perspectives on issues of great public interest.