John K. Wilson has an excellent analysis of the New York state legislation against the ASA. He makes an oh-so-obvious-why-didn’t-I-think-of-it point:
It bans not only direct funding by a college of any scholarly group passing a boycott resolution, but also any funding of travel and lodging by someone to attend that group’s events (even when none of the money would go to the organization).
While the bill does prohibit the use of public money to fund the ASA directly, not much public money, at least at CUNY, works that way. That particular provision of the bill would simply ban universities and colleges from taking out institutional memberships with the ASA; few colleges or universities do that, however. That particular provision of the bill would also prevent universities or colleges from using public funds to pay for an individual faculty member’s membership in the ASA. At least at CUNY, faculty have little if any access to those types of funds.
Where the bill would really hurt us at CUNY is the provision that would prohibit colleges and universities from using public money to fund travel to—and lodging at—an ASA conference. And here’s where Wilson’s point becomes very important. None of that public money would go to the ASA; it simply allows faculty to travel to the ASA and participate in its discussions.
This bill, in other words, is not about defunding the ASA so much as it is about stopping individual faculty from participating in the ASA. At a personal level, it’s far more intrusive and coercive than Guiliani’s attempt to defund the Brooklyn Museum or the City Council’s threat to defund CUNY over the Brooklyn College political department’s co-sponsorship of a panel discussion of BDS. Those threats were directed at institutions; this threat focuses directly on, and seeks to directly control, the associational activity of individuals.
In other news, Jesse Walker at the libertarian magazine Reason lays into the NYS bill. And don’t forget to sign onto the Crooked Timber statement.