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 membersâ€™ contact information and Talking Points below.
2) If your State Senator is not in the Higher Education Committee, contact, in this order:
â€¢ FIRST: State Senate President, John Cullerton (D). CALL (217) 782-2728.
â€¢ SECOND: Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, Senator Michael W. Frerichs (D). CALL (217) 782-2507.
3) Help spread the word.
â€¢ Share this message as widely and as quickly as you can!
â€¢ Try to get this information to people throughout the state…it important that this be a state-wide effort.
â€¢ 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 donâ€™t like the views that faculty and staff are expressing through protected First Amendment activities like boycotts. Legislative intrusion in academic decision-making undermines academicsâ€™ 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 universityâ€™s censorship of academic associationsâ€™ political viewpoints.
MEMBERS OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE AND THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION: