The New York University American studies program’s annual conference this year is focused on the boycott-Israel movement and dominated by its supporters.NYU downplayed the event:
The student-organized conference is scheduled to take place this Friday and Saturday and is titled “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel and Palestine.”
A flyer advertising the conference promises discussion on how “recent American Studies scholarship on the political economy of racialization, empire, and settler colonialism led the highlighting of this particular ‘triangle.’”
The flyer notes the American Studies Association’s decision in December to boycott Israeli educational institutions.
Lisa Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU who is the president-elect of the ASA, is moderating one of the conference’s panels, on the “History & Efficacy of Boycotts.”
Individuals and organizations identified with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement feature throughout the conference.
The conference’s three workshop sessions are all led by representatives of groups that advocate for various Israel-related boycotts: Adalah-NY, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. These sessions focus on activism, with titles like “Movement Building,” “Student Organizing” and “Public Engagement.”
A pro-Israel blog, Elder of Ziyon, on Sunday re-posted the conference flyer after Duggan posted it on Facebook. In a comment below her Facebook post, Duggan asked that the flyer not be widely distributed, writing, “We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention.”
In a statement issued to JTA, New York University said that the conference was intended for academics, not the press or the public.This is somewhat contradicted by Duggan's Facebook post about the conference, where she urged like-minded Israel bashers to "Feel free to share [the conference invitation] with friends, colleagues and grad students." She said nothing about limiting it to faculty and students only.
“This weekend’s American Studies Program Annual Conference is an annual academic conference that is organized by graduate students in NYU’s American Studies Program and designed for faculty and students in this and related disciplines,” said Philip Lentz, the university’s director of public affairs. “Given the purpose of the conference and space considerations, it is not open to the general public or the press.”
Duggan told JTA in an email that nothing was unusual about how the conference was planned or announced.
“It is not ‘secret,’ it is simply a limited registration academic conference, not a public event,” she wrote in her email.
She said that the student organizers did not deserve to be caught up in “the maelstrom of publicity surrounding the ASA boycott vote.”
“I wish our students could have their conference in relative peace and obscurity, as is usual for their conferences,” she wrote.
Likewise, the registration page says nothing about the conference only being intended for academics and students. And neither did the flyer.
It appears that this limitation on who could attend was created after the publicity from my scoop. I am quite certain that if Mondoweiss or Electronic Intifada wanted to send someone to report about the conference, no one there would have objected. In fact, I still expect them to post articles about the conference afterwards.
NYU is simply covering for its American Studies Program and trying to avoid bad publicity.