Yesterday, GMU President Ángel Cabrera tweeted his support for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities “Statement in Opposition to Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.”
Shortly following this endorsement, he tweeted his statement to the Washington Post:
His line that “Universities exist to build bridges of understanding, not to blow them up” insinuates that being in solidarity with Palestinians is on par with terrorism. Not only is this metaphor racist and distasteful, but it was also irresponsible. Supporters of the academic boycott are endangered when their activity is distorted through fear mongering. Cabrera’s use of damaging language is a blatant response to the support GMU SAIA received from faculty as a result of the NO HONOR IN APARTHEID campaign. His response is only a small part of the national “McCarthyite” campaign to destroy the positive learning environments student organizations have created regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on campuses. While academic integrity is often cited as a value of the administration, Cabrera’s rhetoric serves to limit discussion, exploration, and academic freedom around critical issues. While President Cabrera’s support for Israeli apartheid is no secret, his allegiance, to the best of our knowledge, is linked to position and profits.
President Cabrera’s opposition to the resolution, like any university administration’s, denouncement, comes as no surprise. Historically, university presidents are not forerunners of social justice or equality. Now more than ever, their roles resemble that of a CEO of a corporation. Cabrera’s loyalty belongs to the university’s board of trustees, not the faculty or the students. His priority is to increase the university’s endowment, not to uphold its academic integrity. When president Cabrera opposes the ASA’s resolution to boycott Israeli institutions he is not only suppressing the academic freedom of Palestinian academics, but he is also challenging his own faculty’s right to self-determination.
Cabrera’s most recent action is a deliberate attempt to stifle any form of faculty organizing on the GMU campus. Today, we are fighting for a faceless Palestinian academic, but tomorrow we may be demanding better working conditions and pay for you and your colleagues. For this reason president Cabrera opposed the ASA’s resolution, because the former will lead to the latter, and the latter is an administrator’s worst fear.