Protect Free Speech in Universities:

March 6, 2014 by  


By Lisa Kosowski and Dima Khalidi

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Immediate Action Needed:

Stop Passage of Bill in IL State Legislature to Defund Public Universities because of Faculty Political Speech

IL State Senator Ira Silverstein has introduced a bill – SB 3017 – that would prohibit public universities and colleges from using any state funds on groups that have made statements in support of, or that participate in boycotts of Israeli academic institutions. Universities that do so would lose all of their state funding for that year. For instance, state aid could not be used for travel, lodging or membership dues for a faculty member attending the conference of an academic association that made a statement in support of a boycott of Israel. This law will lay the groundwork for other attempts to silence debate and opposition on other controversial issues.

Legislation similar to this has been introduced in New York and Maryland and in the U.S. Congress, and in some states non-binding resolutions have also been brought to the legislative bodies. These are all part of an effort to target and punish the American Studies Association (ASA) because it recently passed a resolution endorsing an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Wherever these bills are being introduced, they are being met with active campaigns challenging the constitutionality of the legislation.

Things in the IL legislature are moving quickly. The Higher Education Committee of the State Senate will hold a hearing on this bill as early as TODAY, Tuesday March 4, 2014. Even though time is short, we need to make sure the members of that committee hear from as many people as possible.

Now is the time for action! This assault on free speech and academic freedom must be stopped today!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?:

1) Contact your State Senators that are members of the Higher Education Committee.

See a list of Committee members’ contact information and Talking Points below.

If you don’t know your State Senator, click here: http://www.elections.il.gov/districtlocator/addressfinder.aspx and type in your address to find out.

2) If your State Senator is not in the Higher Education Committee, contact, in this order:

• FIRST: State Senate President, John Cullerton (D). CALL (217) 782-2728.

• SECOND: Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, Senator Michael W. Frerichs (D). CALL (217) 782-2507.

3) Help spread the word.

• Share this message as widely and as quickly as you can!

• Try to get this information to people throughout the state…it important that this be a state-wide effort.

• Send a letter to the editor in your local paper to express your opposition to this legislation.

TELL STATE SENATORS:

I am calling to oppose the Higher Education Committee Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 3017.

This amendment proposes that the legislature defund an Illinois state university which provides funds for membership, travel or lodging for any employee to attend activities of an academic entity which has issued a public resolution or statement supporting boycotting a country which is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or higher education institutions in that country.

This bill is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has ruled that boycotts are protected First Amendment activities.

The State cannot deny funding to universities because certain legislators don’t like the views that faculty and staff are expressing through protected First Amendment activities like boycotts.
Legislative intrusion in academic decision-making undermines academics’ abilities to associate and exchange views with their colleagues.

It is fiscally irresponsible and unconstitutional to condition funding for the Illinois university system on the university’s censorship of academic associations’ political viewpoints.

MEMBERS OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE AND THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION:

Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee: http://www.ilga.gov/senate/committees/members.asp?CommitteeID=1219

Chair: Senator Michael W. Frerichs (D) 52nd District (note: former teacher)

CALL Springfield Office (217) 782-2507

District Office: 45 E. University Avenue, Suite 206 Champaign, IL 61820

Vice Chair: Senator Pat McGuire (D) 43rd District (note: former teacher and school board member)

CALL Springfield Office (217) 782-8800

District Office: 2200 Weber Road Crest Hill, IL 60403

Senator Daniel Biss (D) 9th District (note: lives in Evanston – former U of C math professor)

CALL Springfield Office (217) 782-2119

District Office: 3706 Dempster Street Skokie, IL 60076

Senator Melinda Bush (D) 31st District

CALL Springfield Office (217) 782-7353

District Office: 10 North Lake Street, Suite 112, Grayslake, IL 60030

Senator Dan Kotowski (D) 28th District

CALL Springfield Office: (217) 782-3875

District Office: 350 S. Northwest Highway, Suite 300 Park Ridge, IL 60068

Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D) 4th District

CALL Springfield Office: (217) 782-8505

District Office: 10001 West Roosevelt Rd Suite 202 Westchester, IL 60154

Senator Andy Manar (D) 48th District

CALL Springfield Office: (217) 782-0228

District Office 103 West Main Street P.O. Box 33 Staunton, IL 62088

Senator John M. Sullivan (D) 47th District

CALL Springfield Office: (217) 782-2479

District Office 926 Broadway, Suite 6 Quincy, IL 62301

Senator Chapin Rose (R) 51st District

CALL Springfield Office: (217) 558-1006

District Office 510 S. Staley Road, Suite D Champaign, IL 61822

Senator David S. Luechtefeld (R) 58th District (note: former teacher)

CALL Springfield Office: (217) 782-8137

District Office 700 North Front Street Okawville, IL 62271

Senator Wm. Sam McCann (R) 50th District

CALL Springfield Office: (217) 782-8206

District Office: 221 Dunlap Court Jacksonville, IL 62650

Senator Kyle McCarter (R) 54th District

CALL Springfield Office: (217) 782-5755

District Office: 310 W. Gallatin Vandalia, IL 62471

 

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