President Richard H. Brodhead reaffirmed that the university has no plans to divest from Israel. Speaking in early September at an evening gathering at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, Brodhead said he concurred with his predecessor, Nannerl O. Keohane, in rejecting requests for such an action.
"I reaffirmed a consistent policy," he said. "Divestment from Israel is an extraordinarily blunt weapon to address an issue of extreme complexity. It would be used only as a last resort where there was very significant, enduring consensus within this country. There's nothing to suggest that exists."
Brodhead visited the Freeman Center to discuss the National Student Conference of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement (PSM) scheduled to take place October 15-17 at Duke. The PSM has called upon universities and others to divest from Israel, and seeks an end to U.S. aid to Israel. Duke officials gave approval for the conference to take place, saying the student organizers had followed proper procedures in registering it.
About 200 students and others attended the September gathering, asking questions not only about the conference, but about issues ranging from kosher dining to study-abroad opportunities in Israel, some of which Brodhead said he was still too new to Duke to discuss in detail.
"I thought he really addressed the issues of the Jewish community quite well," said freshman Clark Rosengarten, who praised Brodhead for his stand on divestiture and the administration for allowing students to sponsor a concert against terrorism on West Campus shortly before the conference was to begin.
Like many others at the meeting, Rosengarten said he continues to have concerns about the conference but said Brodhead's talk made him more optimistic something positive would emerge from the event. "If it makes people more interested in discussing these issues, I think it will serve some purpose," he said.
Harold Kudler, associate clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said Brodhead provided needed reassurance at the meeting that he understands the concerns of Duke's Jewish community. "There was a need to have that leadership affirmed, and I think we heard that leadership here tonight," he said.
Also in September, Brodhead spoke with nearly 100 people at the Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, again with a focus on the PSM conference. He opened the session by explaining Duke's historic commitment to free speech and academic freedom, saying these are core educational values for universities. "You should not think the truth is so weak that it needs the power of suppression," he said, arguing that it was his obligation to maintain an environment in which Duke students and others can exchange ideas openly. Responding to a question about terrorism, Brodhead said, "I deplore all uses of violence for settling disputes."
Details about the conference: www.dukenews.duke.edu/psc.html
Not Divesting, Says Brodhead
November 30, 2004