President Alison Byerly sent the following email today:
To the College Community:
Over the last ten days a number of college and university presidents have released statements regarding the American Studies Association’s recently announced boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education. Some members of the Lafayette community have asked where we stand on this issue.
Our mission statement begins, “In an environment that fosters the free exchange of ideas, Lafayette College seeks to nurture the inquiring mind.” I am proud that the principle of academic freedom is central to our institutional ethos. I believe that any form of academic boycott is contrary to that ethos. An economic boycott expresses opposition by withholding financial support. Such boycotts can be effective by putting a price tag on important values. Restraining the free exchange of ideas, however, and treating intellectual discourse as a commodity, cheapens the value of those ideas.
Lafayette’s distinctive combination of liberal arts and engineering demands that students master the intellectual challenges of open-ended inquiry, as well as the concrete skills of complex problem-solving. We would not be modeling those qualities very effectively if we supported a strategy of cutting off dialogue about difficult issues. The world’s problems will not be solved that way.
I do not know if any Lafayette faculty supported the ASA boycott, and I do not intend to ask. Academic freedom means that individual faculty are entitled to hold their own views. I hope that many members of the community will feel, however, that the personal perspective I have expressed here is consistent with the spirit of Lafayette College, and its commitment to promoting the free exchange of ideas across all differences and boundaries.
With best wishes for the New Year,