An Assembly bill that sought to punish New York colleges that used state money to boycott Israel or other countries that host SUNY programs has been scaled down.
The legislation, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, would make clear that colleges that receive state aid can’t use the money to support boycotting groups, such as the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel. If a school violates the proposed law, it would have an amount equal to what they spent supporting the group deducted from its state aid.
The previous iteration of Silver’s bill—which was abruptly halted in committee this week after Assembly allies raised concerns about academic freedoms—would have stripped the college of its state aid for the entire academic year.
“The change clarifies that you cannot use state funds – taxpayer dollars – to participate in a hateful and bigoted boycott aimed at countries that have regents-chartered institutions,” Silver spokesman Michael Whyland wrote in an email. “It does not limit an academic entity or organization from participating in such a boycott, it only says you cannot use state funds to do so. The use of state funds to an entity participating in any boycott (aimed at the certain countries) would be violating the provisions of the bill.”
Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn, first proposed targeting academic boycotts late last year, shortly after the ASA announced its anti-Israel action.
Late last month, the Senate overwhelmingly passed Klein’s bill, which would strip the offending colleges of state funds but included certain provisions that would allow boycotting terrorist states or countries involved in labor disputes.