NYU professor Lisa Duggan—you may remember her as the president of the American Studies Association and a strong voice in support of the organization’s decision last year to boycott Israeli universities—asked that the conference be kept secret.Lisa Duggan replied in the comments:
“PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer,” read her message. “We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention.”
Now, it’s one thing for a student organization like Hillel or private institutions like Jewish museums or high schools to decide that their intellectual horizons exclude those who do not share certain core beliefs. A university, however, does not have that privilege. It is—or should be—open to all ideas, to myriad points of view, to discussion, to dissent.
Because any attempt to seriously study human conduct is likely to stir up emotions and give rise to ideological barricades, our best universities have come up with policies to safeguard that sanctity of academic freedom in their midst. Title I of NYU’s own poignant faculty handbook puts it elegantly when it states that professors “should not introduce into their teaching controversial matter that has no relation to their subject,” and should at all times “exercise appropriate restraint” as well as “show respect for the opinions of others.”
The recent conference’s organizers did none of that. Forgoing any semblance of serious study, viable research, or honest attempts to understand the intricacies of the subject at hand, they turned their classroom into a seminary designed exclusively to cultivate hatred for one particular nation state and fashion this animosity into ruinous political action.
Hence the call to keep things secret: while academic institutions are, of course, never obliged to let members of the public into their hushed sanctuaries—that’s a privilege obtained by paying a hefty tuition—one should be very, very suspicious of any learned person who insists—against the long-standing and proud American tradition of free inquiry, against the common-sensical and democratic expectation that the university see itself as part of the community that supports and sustains it and not as a small and zealous sect apart—on conducting intellectual work under the cover of darkness.
The university should judge whether the organization of a discriminatory conference and the insistence that participants comply, Mafia-style, with a sort of academic Omerta meets its own standards. The rest of us are left with the less subtle and more tragic duty of witnessing the formerly solid tradition of intellectual freedom and debate melt into air.
The conference was not secret. It was a regular American Studies annual academic conference. These are not public events, they never have been. They are not debate formats either. I created an fb event by invite only, for professors and grad students in the area. Because the issue of Israel Palestine and the ASA's recent boycott vote was controversial, I knew that *this* conference might attract public attention, which we wanted to avoid--as we always do, for our annual conferences. There was no attempt to restrict the range of views of professors and students who wanted to attend. We just didn't want press, polemical blowhards, political organizations etc to disrupt the academic panels. ALL organizations on campus have events which are not "balanced" or open to the public, this is routine. Certainly zionist groups on campus have many such events. Nothing secret going on. We also do have public events, that ARE open to press and public. This just wasn't one of those. The idea that this was a "secret" conference is just ludicrous. A function of the attack culture around the issues. If the conference had been on US empire (with no supporters of empire present, and no press or public invited or wanted), it would have attracted zero attention, and would have been considered ordinary. Because it was ordinary.First of all, as Liebovitz pointed out, there is a difference between an event sponsored by a student organization and one sponsored by an official university department, American Studies at NYU. Professor Duggan has a reading comprehension problem (Notice also that she chooses not to capitalize "zionist." And that in her invitation, she misspelled "protesters." Professors just can't seem to reach the standards expected of high school students nowadays.)
Secondly, even this paragraph contradicts itself. First she says that it was an invite-only conference, but then she says that there was no attempt to restrict the range of views of those who wanted to attend. Given that the speakers were obviously handpicked to give only one side of the story, is it conceivable that Duggan "invited" anyone who would disagree? But let's give hr a chance to name a single person she "invited" who does not share her crazed anti-Zionism. Just one, Lisa.
Of course, she can't - because she is lying when she says that this was a Facebook invite-only event. It was not a Facebook invitation, it was a Facebook photo-post, which encouraged all readers in her little circle to invite their friends - but not to publicize it to anyone outside that circle.
Here's the screen-shot that shows Duggan is a liar:
Of course, Duggan also doesn't mention that she took the post down as soon as I exposed her duplicity. If it was an invite-only event, that would not have been necessary.
Are there any consequences at a major university when one of their professors tries to hide their activities from critics, and then lies about it?
(h/t David L)