Earth to British academics: Who are you and who cares what you have to say? My fellow blogger rabbis, Rabbi Waxman and Rabbi Grossman, along with Tom Friedman of the New York Times have already done a good job at pointing out the anti-Semitic undertones of this whole charade. Likewise, kudos should be given to Lee Bollinger of Columbia University who has lined up behind the Israeli Universities. As opposed to past incidents at Columbia where Bollinger was accused of being late in responding to Middle East issues, here he has put himself out in front of the issue and has made a very clear statement in support of academic freedom and Israel. Bollinger has gone so far as to exclaim:
“Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.”
To be honest, however, I am not getting all that worked up about the matter. No, not because I am in any way in favor of the boycott; it’s a disgrace on all British academics. But rather because in taking such a stance, they have only made themselves look foolish. The boycott only gives more food to fodder for those who mock and disdain intellectuals as irrelevant and unimportant. I love the academy and see it as an essential component of civilization and the betterment of society but when you hear pronouncements like this one you begin to understand why the influence of the academy has waned in the last 50 years.
The bottom line is that President George Bush has taken hit after hit by academics around America and yet he has won two elections. Next time you get a red and blue map see how many university areas voted for Bush–not many. The decline in influence excreted by academics is coupled with the disappearance of the responsible public intellectual who recognizes both the value and limitations of ideas in social and political contexts. The shrillness of certain academics has degraded the high moral ground the academy once held.