To: The Illinois State House, The Illinois State Senate, and Governor J.B. Pritzker

Illinois Legislators Should Oppose Senate Bill 3017, which Seeks to Stifle Academics' Association...

Illinois legislators should oppose Senate Bill 3017, which seeks to stifle the freedom to engage in academic boycott

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We are Illinois faculty members who strongly oppose Illinois Senate Bill 3017, proposed legislation that aims to curtail the constitutional right of all academics to determine for ourselves the scope of our academic associations. SB 3017 would prohibit Illinois public universities from using State aid to fund an academic entity, or even fund a professor’s membership or travel to attend a meeting of an academic entity, that “has issued a public resolution or other official statement” supporting or engaging in boycott. The legislation was proposed in direct response to the decisions of the American Studies Association (ASA) , the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS) , and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAIS) to endorse an academic boycott of Israel.

The legislation would impose the views of elected officials on Illinois universities. This bill aims to punish academic advocacy in the form of a boycott on an issue of public concern because some members of the Legislature disfavor the viewpoint expressed. In doing so, it opens the door to government interference in any academic speech activities on important political issues.

The legislation violates academic freedom rights as guaranteed by the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions. SB3017 proposes to impose a political litmus test by which legislators dictate to universities which boycotts by academics are appropriate. Under the U.S. Constitution, “free speech is not a right that is given only to be so circumscribed that it exists in principle but not in fact.” For this reason, the government may not withhold funding in order to suppress “dangerous ideas.”

We strongly oppose legislative attempts to put a strait jacket on the manner in which faculty associations exercise their academic and professional judgment. We urge our elected representatives in the Illinois General Assembly to reject Illinois Senate Bill 3017.

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