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Harris Green challenges UCT on academic boycott

Ex South African and member of Telfed's EXCO, Harris Green wrote the following letter to the Vice Chancellor of UCT. The article was published by The Times of Israel

Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor of UCT 

OPEN LETTER REGARDING THE UPCOMING MEETING OF THE UNIVERSITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS THE ACADEMIC BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL AS PROPOSED BY THE UNIVERSITY SENATE.

May 3, 2019 

Ms. Mamokgethi Phakeng,

Vice Chancellor,

University of Cape Town.

Dear Madam,

My name is Harris Green. I graduated with a B. Com. degree from the University of Cape Town in 1968. My academic degree from UCT provided me with the stepping stone to a successful international business career.

Upon reflection, the university I attended actually gave me much more than my academic degree. It exposed me to the injustices of South Africa’s political realities of the time. It inspired me to play an active role in a variety of campus bodies to achieve equality through dialog and constructive debate. We fervently sang “We shall overcome”. Ultimately, that’s exactly what we achieved.

These values were the cornerstone of my university experience. My university experience provided me the tools to think laterally. It stressed the value of listening to and respecting different points of view. These different and sometimes conflicting points of view, played a decisive part in the development of my own personal opinions. It taught me the art of decision making. At the university I attended, academic freedom was a sacred principle and I enjoyed the freedom of choice.

Sadly, this is no longer the case at my alma mater. The University’s Senate and its student leadership body have become radicalized to the extreme. These bodies have been hi-jacked by anarchists to serve a warped, anti-Semitic agenda in complete contrast to the principles of academic freedom. Appeasement and an insatiable desire to be perceived as being politically correct has replaced any structured decision and coherent policy making process.

Can any serious and respected academic institution afford to reject the fruits of scientific and historical research by internationally acclaimed academic institutions simply for political reasons?

I urge you and your fellow members of the University Council not only to reject the proposal of the University’s Senate but rather to encourage a constructive dialog with Israeli academic institutions.

I appeal to you not to allow this racist boycott to be implemented. Academic cooperation with Israeli universities can make the University of Cape Town great again. Please don’t allow anarchists to ruin the University’s academic reputation and set it off on an irreversible self-destructing course to academic anonymity.

In the event of the University Council approving the Senate’s recommendation to boycott Israeli academic institutions, I will, regrettably, be left with no other option than to publicly renounce the academic degree awarded to me by the University.

In such circumstances, I have no wish to preserve my association with an academic institution that denies its students the fundamental rights of academic freedom and free choice.

To paraphrase Leonard Cohen’s last song, “…you want it darker, you kill the flame”.

Respectfully,

Harris Green

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