After years of hesitation, I've finally just joined UCU... I pinched my nose and did the deed. YUCK!!!
Having spent so long vacillating between, on the one hand, wanting to have no part in an organization which gives a platform to a campaign which I experience to be racist & exclusionary and, on the other hand, feeling bound to join, for many reasons, none least: in order to fight against these very characteristics. Not being able to abide the fence-sitting anymore, I joined, hoping this 'brave' act might make the self-berating stop for a while but I've instantly gone from guilty non-member to guilty member! Neither position feels comfortable or tolerable - all options are bad. A small act of protest in joining, though - here's an extract from my cover-letter to UCU:
I would like to deduct the part of my subscription which goes to your Political Fund. Please could you arrange this for me? This is in protest against your debate to call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, which is currently prominently advertised on your homepage. I would be upset if my membership fees were to fund this campaign and I am hopeful that I can still join UCU without committing myself to supporting what I take to be racist, exclusionary campaign – thanks. My membership is contingent on this act of protest being possible, so do please confirm that this has been arranged.
Future acts of protest in planning - hopefully less pathetic! Keep tuned or posted or whatever...
Professor Shalom Lappin has written extremely cogently about why I should not have joined UCU and good arguments of this sort have kept me away all this time (AUT beforehand). He's right to argue that "to remain in the UCU, and to continue to plead on bended knee for a reversal of the resolutions is as demeaning as it is inefficient." There's an interesting thread on Engage debating the point.
As for me, I waited and waited for inspiration as to what I could do instead of joining UCU and I've come up with nothing persuasive so, in desperation, I joined up. In the interim, I found myself wishing I'd joined the last time my conscience (partly) told me I should, so that I could have resigned with Professor Lappin on this occasion. I wish more had resigned with him - I get the sense that mass resignations helped stymie the recent boycott by the National Union of Journalists. Perhaps if more had resigned, the boycott campaign could have died the death it ought. But it didn't and few resigned, as far as I can tell. And probably many more joined, just as I have now done, apparently rewarding UCU for giving a platform to the boycott movement. OY!
I promise to resign if this fight fails! Which it won't...it can't. Can it? One thing which makes it so awful working under the shadow of this boycott: fear that this just won't go away. Once the 'Israel-demonizing roadshow' over (see 2nd UCU link above), there'll be some new hurdle to dread; another statement from UCU which doesn't quite go far enough; another delay in putting this to a full ballot of members, which would make it clear that a debate about boycotting Israeli academic institutions is not one to which UK academics are willing to commit their energies. Until then, I can only doubt and fear, and continue to feel boycotted...