The New York measure aimed at academic groups boycotting Israel is stalled for now, but a similar bill has emerged in Maryland. Authored by State Senator Joan Conway Carter, the Maryland bill bars public universities from providing funds to academic organizations that support boycotts of Israel.
The purpose of both the New York and Maryland bills is to cut off state university-subsidized travel expenses to conventions organized by the American Studies Association (ASA) and department membership fees to the ASA. It would also apply to other academic groups that support boycotts of Israel. The legislation does not mention Israel. But it applies to state universities that have cooperation with institutions abroad, and Israeli universities maintain relationships with the University of Maryland, the main public institution in the state.
The language in the Maryland bill is similar to the New York measure, though it’s not exactly the same. While the New York bill, in its current form, would cut off all state aid from schools in violation of the law, the Maryland bill would cut off three percent of aid that flows to state schools if they violate it. John K. Wilson, a writer for the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) Academe blog, detailed some of the other differences in a recent post:
The Maryland bill applies to membership fees and travel expenses to any event held by the banned organization (although, bizarrely, registration fees for conferences are not mentioned, and could be paid for by a university). The Maryland bill is also not limited to state funds (unlike New York’s), and applies to any college funds, even if they come from tuition and fees, or from institutional sources. Whereas New York’s bill is really symbolic (requiring colleges to waste time and money by having travel costs paid out of non-state funds), Maryland’s bill really would require a ban on any funding of travel or membership fees.
The Maryland bill also goes beyond academic boycotts to include support for any kind of boycotts. The bill in section (B) refers only to academic boycotts, but section (C), which is the real enforcement provision, covers any resolution regarding any kind of boycott of a country.
No votes on the legislation have taken place in Maryland. It was introduced on January 31st, and a hearing on the bill will take place on March 11th during a meeting of the Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee.
Opposition to the bill has been voiced by the AAUP, and the writer and analyst Mitchell Plitnick has set up a petition against the bill. Plitnick’s petition criticizes the legislation for imposing “draconian limits on academic freedom and free speech.”