A Response to ‘When Academic Freedom Proves a One-Way Street’

I appreciate being read, but do not appreciate being misread.

I do not hold, and actively oppose, many of the views you, Professor Lubet, have projected on to me in “When Academic Freedom Proves a One-Way Street.” The positions I articulated in the blog entry you discuss involve no objections to Pitzer or McMaster hiring Professor Eshbal Ratson for a position for which she is fully qualified and the best available candidate. Full stop. Contrary to what you have claimed about my views, I do not support barriers to hiring an individual on the basis of their “nationality” or any other factor unrelated to their being qualified for a given position.

The Palestinian BDS campaign—which I proudly support—is clear that it embraces academic freedom and rejects boycotting individual scholars. It calls instead for opposing institutional relationships with Israeli universities due to their complicity in state violence, state apartheid, and state infringements on the right to education of Palestinians. This is no different than was opposing institutional relationships with white South African universities under that earlier apartheid state.

For a somewhat fuller account of my own BDS views, see my opinion piece, “Why Israel,” in Inside Higher Education.

It is a considerable difference between us that I was raised to think that if one writes a criticism of someone else, one should share that criticism with the person one is criticizing—as a matter of both respectful candor and a commitment to robust dialogue and debate (the very goals of academic freedom and speech rights!). It is only by chance that I came across your inaccurate attack on my views and character.

There is perhaps but one point on which we are in agreement: consistency on academic freedom issues takes careful work. I readily acknowledge that I spend a great deal of time and intellectual focus pursuing such consistency. And, of course, I am fallible. That said, in this case, I ask that you work harder at this, and consider the possibility that you do not have it all so neatly figured out. To start, I ask that you reread—slowly, carefully, and closely—my blog post on the McMaster case. And I hope that when you do, you will recognize an ethical obligation to correct, publicly, your mistaken claims about my views.

I would also urge you to travel to illegally occupied Palestine to observe what life is like for people who are denied freedom and other basic human and political rights by a hyper-militarized and hyper-securitized state. Our Palestinian sisters and brothers deserve more thorough and careful attention from you. 

In the struggle,

Daniel A. Segal

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Dan A. Segal

Daniel A. Segal is the Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History at Pitzer College of the Claremont Colleges. He is the acting president of the Claremont Colleges AAUP chapter and a member of the executive board of California Scholars for Academic Freedom. A past fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and a past secretary of the American Anthropological Association, he has published widely about kinship in Jane Austen, racial discourse and practices in Trinidad, the history of history and several social science disciplines, Jane Goodall in Gombe, and world history. He is proud to serve on the coordinating committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles and the organizing collective of US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

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