U. of Johannesburg Scientists Agree to Project With Israelis

July 11, 2011

Scientists at the University of Johannesburg, in South Africa, on Friday announced a joint water research agreement involving counterparts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel; the University of Ghent, in Belgium; and the University of California at Los Angeles. The announcement raised some eyebrows as the Johannesburg faculty voted in March to end ties with Ben-Gurion, saying that the Israeli university was complicit with policies that hurt Palestinians. (Ben-Gurion has maintained that it actually does considerable work with Palestians, and many academic groups have opposed academic boycotts, but the Johannesburg administration followed the faculty vote and allowed to lapse an agreement between the two universities.) While the new agreement has been reported in some publications as an abandonment of the faculty vote, Johannesburg officials say that is not the case. The faculty had the right to bar institutional exchanges, but not those arranged by individual faculty members, the officials said. Ihron Rensburg, vice chancellor at Johannesburg, issued a statement in which he said that the university "upholds academic freedom and the right of its academic staff to develop relationships with whomsoever they wish."

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