Cana­di­ans join global move­ment to boy­cott aca­demic events held in the U.S.

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

Cana­dian in­tel­lec­tu­als are in the thick of a global move­ment to protest the ad­min­is­tra­tion of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump by boy­cotting aca­demic con­fer­ences hosted on Amer­i­can soil.

Hun­dreds of pro­fes­sors at uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try have joined more than 6,200 academics around the world pledg­ing to stay away from in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences held in the United States.

Some Cana­dian groups have gone fur­ther, ei­ther reschedul­ing pre­vi­ously booked con­fer­ences or break­ing ranks with coun­ter­parts in the U.S. who dis­cour­age such boy­cotts.

Most academics say their de­ci­sions were prompted by Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der tem­po­rar­ily ban­ning trav­ellers from seven pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries from en­ter­ing the United States.

They say the ex­ec­u­tive or­der, which has been tem­po­rar­ily stayed by U.S. courts, puts in­tel­lec­tual free­dom at risk by si­lenc­ing the voices of those who can­not en­ter the coun­try.

They also ar­gue that ex­clud­ing some Mus­lim col­leagues com­pro­mises the in­tel­lec­tual in­tegrity of aca­demic dis­course, adding that the or­der helps en­trench racism.

The is­sue has trig­gered some pas­sion­ate de­bate in aca­demic cir­cles, with one strik­ing ex­am­ple play­ing out be­tween a ma­jor Amer­i­can as­so­ci­a­tion and its Cana­dian chap­ter.

The In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion, an in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on global af­fairs that pur­ports to have 7,000 mem­bers world­wide, is hold­ing its an­nual con­ven­tion in Bal­ti­more later this month.

The as­so­ci­a­tion has ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for those affected by Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der, but also urged peo­ple to at­tend in the in­ter­est of al­low­ing aca­demic re­search and dis­course to con­tinue with­out re­stric­tions.

The ISA’s po­si­tion drew a sharp re­buke from its Cana­dian chap­ter, which not only urged mem­bers to boy­cott the Bal­ti­more meet­ing but is ar­rang­ing an al­ter­nate time for peo­ple who choose not to at­tend the main con­fer­ence to present their re­search in Canada.

“I won’t lie, I thought it was em­bar­rass­ing,” Colleen Bell, pres­i­dent of ISA Canada, said of the ISA state­ment. “We took a strong stand be­cause ... the sub­ject mat­ter that we all share in com­mon is re­la­tions be­tween peo­ple across na­tions. We’re in a unique po­si­tion to ac­tu­ally be able to speak up about the ef­fect of the ex­ec­u­tive or­der on peo­ple’s rights.”

Bell con­cedes that boy­cotts are not fea­si­ble for all, and ac­knowl­edges that many ju­nior schol­ars and grad­u­ate stu­dents de­pend on ma­jor con­fer­ences to present pa­pers that could ad­vance their ca­reers or build their pro­fes­sional net­works.

In­tel­lec­tual in­tegrity also lies at the heart of many ar­gu­ments against aca­demic boy­cotts, she said, cit­ing the ISA’s orig­i­nal state­ment en­cour­ag­ing at­ten­dance at the up­com­ing con­ven­tion.

In that state­ment, the as­so­ci­a­tion “strongly” en­cour­aged ev­ery­one who could to at­tend the con­fer­ence in Bal­ti­more.

“That way, we will have the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss how to move for­ward as an as­so­ci­a­tion in this changed re­al­ity.” it said. “Oth­er­wise, we al­low fur­ther sup­pres­sion of our schol­arly in­ter­ac­tions.”

ISA Canada called on its par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion to condemn the travel ban out­right, pro­vide tele­con­fer­enc­ing op­tions so peo­ple can take part in the Bal­ti­more con­ven­tion with­out trav­el­ling there, and com­mit to hold­ing fu­ture con­fer­ences out­side of the United States.

Another Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Western Di­vi­sion of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Geog­ra­phers, went a step fur­ther and resched­uled a con­fer­ence that had orig­i­nally been booked at a uni­ver­sity in Wash­ing­ton state.

A tweet by the Uni­ver­sity of the Fraser Val­ley in Ab­bots­ford, B.C., said the March con­fer­ence will now take place on their cam­pus “in sol­i­dar­ity with those affected by cur­rent dis­crim­i­na­tory U.S. bor­der laws.” The Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Geog­ra­phers did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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