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The Role of Private Donations in the Academic Debate Over Israel
While scholars are entitled to academic freedom, universities are not entitled to donations from private citizens and foundations. Donors have the right to give or not give and place conditions on their gifts. They also have the right to ask for their money back if they believe a university is failing to fulfill the intent of their endowment.
Protecting academic freedom is the responsibility of universities. Individuals and foundations should not be forced to remain invested in programs they don’t support. Similarly, universities are free to reject gifts if they don’t agree to the conditions attached to them.
Many donors want their gifts to help counter this institutional bias and foster a diversity of viewpoints. This is an entirely legitimate goal that should be stated explicitly in agreements with universities. Supporting scholarship that reflects the perspectives, history, and real-life experiences of most Jews around the world is not a threat to academic freedom or free speech. On the contrary, it is one way to enrich an academic debate that has only grown more one-sided and divorced from reality over time.
Now more than ever, it is crucial that people who both support Israel and give to universities monitor how their money is spent. Before making a gift, donors should very clearly state, in writing, their expectations about what they are funding. Upon agreeing to the terms of their gift, they should remain involved and ideally not invest all the money upfront.
Adapted from “The Role of Private Donations in the Academic Debate over Israel,” by Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs