Dear Rector, I write to you as a former vice chancellor (rector)of 2 British universities. That universities have meetings, lectures and debates which are one sided is unfortunate but not new. But that these activities take place under the patronage of the Rector is in my experience unprecedented. We must assume from this that you support the clear one-sided nature of the debate. In doing so you besmirch the name of your university, and its reputation for scientific objectivity. The international academic community is aware of your activities and is watching carefully.I understand that further anti Israel actions are being considered, and I urge to think very carefully before you completely obliterate whatever international reputation Trondheim currently enjoys.
NOTE: Prof Wagner is the former Vicechancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University and former Chancellor of the University of Derby
UPDATE: Here is the full letter:
Dear M/s Arnstad,
I write to you as a former vice chancellor (rector) and also as a former chancellor of universities in the United Kingdom, to express my strong opposition to the proposed resolution at Trondheim University to boycott Israeli universities and academics. I urge you to reject this resolution to preserve the good name of Trondheim University and Norwegian universities in general.
There are many reasons for you to take this action and I will cite just two. First, it is profoundly anti-academic. In universities academics are differentiated by the quality and relevance of their work, and not by the passport they hold. Once these political criteria are introduced the academic reputation of the university is destroyed. Instead of Trondheim deciding who it will or will not accept as partners, you will find others across the world deciding not to accept Trondheim as a partner, because its academic decisions can no longer be trusted.
The second issue is why, faced with the range of alleged ‘occupations’, misdemeanours and civilian casualties in warfare, your university has chosen to highlight Israel. At best it is a sign of cowardice, making a political gesture with little practical consequence for the university. Of course, boycotting Russian universities for the events in Chechnya, or US or European universities for the events in Iraq and Afghanistan, might also have been considered, but that would take an act of bravery and have serious consequences for the university and the country. The cowardly option is much easier.
At worst however this resolution by singling out Israel, can only be considered as disguised anti Semitism, and not just by Jews. In Britain, such a resolution could not be accepted, as it would be regarded as racist under the country’s laws. In Norway this is clearly not the case, but the fact that in Britain it would be so considered, must give you pause for thought.
The resolution is gesture politics at its worst, and good universities stay as far away from such gestures in order to preserve their academic reputation. For the sake of your good name, and indeed that of Norway itself, I urge you most sincerely to reject this resolution.
Professor Leslie Wagner CBE