President Bottomly Expresses Opposition to Threatened Boycott of Scholars at Israeli Universities

August 13, 2007
Mary Ann Hill,

WELLESLEY, Mass.— Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly has stated her opposition to an effort by some British academics to boycott scholars at Israeli universities, saying that “such a boycott is antithetical to the fundamental mission of the academy.”

“This is a rare moment in which colleges and universities and their presidents across the country are coming together to remind the world that it is our mission to foster the scholarly exchange of ideas, regardless of the political popularity of the ideas, with the understanding that conversations between diverse groups of people lead to innovative ways of thinking,” said Bottomly, who began her tenure as Wellesley’s president Aug. 1.

She expressed her strong support of the principles outlined in a statement by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, which appeared in an advertisement in The New York Times and has been endorsed by other college and university presidents. Bottomly, along with other presidents who did not receive information about the advertisement, has added her name to the online petition.

"In principle, I do not believe that colleges and universities should take institutional political stances, given that we are diverse intellectual community, whose members hold a wide variety of political and ideological views," said Bottomly. "We should, and do, cherish that intellectual diversity."

"My decision to express opposition to the threatened boycott does not violate that principle," she explained. "To me, the boycott is a moral and ethical offense, not a political one. To exclude scholars from any part of the globe because of their nationality or ethnicity, is to violate the most important academic values that make us one of the last bastions of free inquiry and one of the best remaining hopes of the world. The free exchange of ideas and argumentation, the free flow of scholars to dispute and collaborate is an essential component of our quest for understanding and discovery."

Wellesley College has been a leader in the education of women for more than 130 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 65 countries.