Campus Activism: Views of a Teacher and a Student June 30, 2015Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in Uncategorized.
Tags: Israel, liberal arts college, Palestine, Study Trip, Water
In today’s New York Times:
To the Editor:
“The Campus Crusaders,” by David Brooks (column, June 2), reflected my experience as a geology professor. I was nearly prevented from embarking on a study trip with students to Israel and the West Bank in 2014.
I designed the course to engage hydropolitics from a geoscientist’s perspective. It was approved by the college’s curriculum committee. I intended to learn alongside students what could be realized only through travel to regions we explored in our texts. After all, it’s difficult for students from water-rich places to appreciate the reality of villagers sharing meager water supplies from springs or to imagine solutions to these problems without seeing the situation.
Owing to the American Studies Association’s vote to support the academic boycott of Israel, my course became a flash point for campus debate. Protesters held placards and heckled my students outside the classroom, urging them to drop the course. I would have liked protesters to enroll in the course and, as Mr. Brooks says, face the “hard truths.” Instead, they tried to shut down avenues of inquiry and block others’ attempt to examine tough issues.
Still, I stuck to my educational principles: I support protest but won’t boycott ideas. During travel we learned directly from Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians why water issues are central to the conflict. We also learned lessons about principled stances that I didn’t set out to teach but that I am very thankful I learned. I would teach the course again — field trip included — in a heartbeat.
JILL S. SCHNEIDERMAN
The writer is a professor of earth science and geography at Vassar College.