A column in The New York Sun was based on the incorrect premise that Professor Zachary Lockman, director of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University, supports a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions. In fact, he does not ["Boycotting Israel at NYU," Martin Kramer, Opinion, April 1, 2004].
Mr. Lockman signed an open letter, but the letter was poorly phrased and imprecisely worded, so much so that his signing of it left his intentions unclear. Mr. Lockman has since taken the opportunity to clarify his intentions, and he neither advocates nor supports any such boycott.
Not only that, such a boycott would run counter to the essential values and policies of both NYU and the Kevorkian Center. We believe that the burden of a great university is to encourage and facilitate open, free, and continuous dialogue without fear of recrimination.
This vision is at the core of what we do and who we are. It applies to the activities of the Kevorkian Center — whose academic activities include the study of Israel. As a part of their studies, the center regularly hosts leading Israeli scholars.
To fulfill both its academic responsibilities and its mission, a university must be firmly committed to the principle that scholars are free to pursue their research and responsibly to express their ideas, without fear of persecution because of the unpopularity or controversial nature of the positions they embrace or express.
This is the essence of the rightly cherished and too easily threatened principle of academic freedom. Just as there might be some faculty at NYU who may support the idea of a boycott, there are others who are firmly opposed.
If we are to remain institutions of higher learning, and if we cherish the pursuit of truth, then however controversial or unpopular views expressed along the road of discovery may be, we must all — those of us outside the university as well as those of us within it — stand prepared to support and defend this principle.