Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Revised Version of Anti-Boycott Legislation in NY State Assembly

We again want to thank everyone who made calls, sent email messages, signed petitions, wrote statements and did all of the work to push against the anti-boycott legislation in the NY State Assembly. On Feb. 3, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was forced to withdraw his bill and the Higher Education Committee removed it from their agenda that day. This was a tremendous victory for academic freedom and free speech, and a testament to the power of unified action!

But our work is far from over. Speaker Silver has already issued a revised version of his bill, now titled A. 8392A.  There seems to be just one difference between this and the earlier version: Previously a college could have been subject to losing its entire state funding for a year if they had used any of their state funding  on groups that support boycotts of Israel. In the new version, the college would only lose the amount of money actually spent on such activities. (The link to the full text is here: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A08392&term=&Summary=Y&Text=Y. )

To some this might seem like a reasonable compromise. But don't be fooled. The attempt to withhold any amount of state funding is a direct assault on our constitutionally protected right to free speech.  The truth is, there is no "good version" of a bill that at its core is an attempt to punish acts of academic freedom or free speech. There is no way to work out a compromise or to fine tune this legislation to make it appear less offensive. The only way out of this is to defeat the legislation!

As far as we know, there is no date set yet for a discussion of this bill in the Assembly's Higher Education Committee. We will be keeping track of the bill and will certainly alert you as soon as we hear about a date. But we cannot wait until then to take action...now is the time to once again send a clear, strong message of opposition to this legislation.

Contact Speaker Silver
 Call, email fax or use any other method to contact Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver...District Office phone 212-312-1420, Albany Office phone 518-455-3791, to send an email click here.

Contact the Higher Education Committee of the NY State Assembly
 Contact as many of the other members of the Higher Education Committee as you can. Click here for the list of committee members, which includes links to each of their websites.
 Contact the chair of the Higher Education Committee, Deborah Glick. To send an email to her office, just click here. Her office numbers are Albany Office phone 518-455-4841, District Office phone 212-674-5153.

Help spread the word
 Share this message as widely and as quickly as you can.
 Try to get this information to people throughout NY State...it is important that this be a state-wide effort.
 Send a letter to the editor to express your opposition to this legislation.

We also want to call your attention to troubling developments around the country. In Maryland a bill similar to the NY one has been introduced. Click here for information about that legislation and the campaign to stop it. We are also watching what happens in Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois where some versions of bills or resolutions have been introduced. Finally, probably the worst version of this legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress, although that seems to have virtually no support. We will do our best to keep you informed about these situations as they unfold.

Lots of important information about our fight here in NY and what's going on other places can be found by clicking here.

Ad Hoc Group In Support of Academic Freedom and the First Amendment

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