Events Related to Israel Studies
AIS Statement about the University of Washington at Seattle
The Association for Israel Studies views with concern the controversy over the Israel Studies program at the University of Washington at Seattle. We have refrained up until now from making statements or joining in petitions alleging injuries to the academic freedom of faculty in order to ascertain the facts of the incident.
Based on the information we have received from the university administration, Professor Liora Halperin’s position is secure, as is a chair that she will continue to hold, along with considerable resources for her and the Israel Studies Center.
The University reports: “Prof. Halperin will be the holder of a new endowed chair in Jewish Studies created with the funds that remain in a new endowment. This chair will have the same salary and research benefits as her previous endowed chair. Prof. Halperin’s tenured professorship is in place and fully supported. The implication in the claim that ‘the university stripped Halperin of her chair position and halted programming related to Israel studies’ is thus not accurate.”
The fact is that although $5,000,000 has been returned to the donor, through accrued interest, university matching funds of $2.5 million and other investments that were not returned nearly $6 million remains in an endowment and is dedicated for use of Israel Studies.
The reasons for the return of the endowment have been subject to various interpretations. What is clear is that the donor felt aggrieved and charged that understandings and promises were not fulfilled, and therefore sought written clarifications. It appears that Prof. Halperin’s signature on a petition was only one part of a larger, continuing disagreement over the contract.
The AIS trusts that this unfortunate incident will serve as a cautionary episode in which greater clarity will be manifest in future arrangements among the parties involved in creating and advancing Israel Studies.
It is to be emphasized that the incident at Seattle is exceptional. The field of Israel Studies is growing in importance, and there are numerous centers, chairs, and programs in Israel Studies, headed by scholars holding a wide range of views, that flourish, adhere to the highest academic standards, and contribute to the satisfaction of faculty, students, and donors and the communities they serve. We are hopeful that this will continue to be the case at the University of Washington and in the field generally. The Association for Israel Studies will continue to support academic freedom, freedom of expression and the scholarship and scholars advancing knowledge of modern Israel.
Arieh Saposnik, President