Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Update/Action Alert on Anti-Boycott Legislation in NY State Assembly

Action Alert - 2/25/14

Update on Anti-Boycott Legislation in NY State Assembly
We Need to Continue to Make Our Voices Heard!

On February 3, NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was forced to withdraw a draconian bill that would have undermined academic freedom and free speech. His bill was designed to punish any state-funded college or university in NY that had used any of that money on activities related to groups that support boycotts of Israel. But enough pressure was put on Speaker Silver to force his withdrawal of that bill. This was a tremendous victory and a testament to the power of unified action!

But - and this is critically important - our work to defeat this legislation is not over. Speaker Silver quickly issued a revised version of his bill, titled A. 8392A.  There is one difference between this and the earlier version: Previously a college could have lost 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. )

The Ad Hoc Group In Support of Academic Freedom and the First Amendment is in full gear to defeat this version of the bill! Any attempt to withhold any amount of state funding is a direct assault on our constitutionally protected right to free speech. There is no "good version" of a bill that at its core is designed 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 less offensive. The only way out of this is to defeat the legislation!

The NY State Legislature is about to go into intensive budget debate. While most of their attention and energies will be focused on the budget we cannot let them forget about the dangers of this anti-boycott legislation. We are keeping track of the bill and will alert you as soon as we hear about a date for a vote in any Assembly committees, 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 Assembly 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.
 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.

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

Ad Hoc Group In Support of Academic Freedom and the First Amendment
Members include the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, the National Lawyers Guild, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC – CUNY faculty and staff union), Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, the American Studies Association and others. In addition, the Ads Hoc Group works closely with NYSUT (NY State United Teachers), AAUP, NY Civil Liberties Union, and many individuals.

Media Contacts: 
Donna Nevel - denevel@gmail.com, 917-570-4371

Leslie Cagan  -  347-581-1782

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