Pitzer Faculty Votes to End Israel Study Abroad

Earlier this month on Nov. 8, the Pitzer College faculty voted on and passed two motions concerning the college’s relationship with Israel, including one to suspend its study abroad program with the University of Haifa in Israel. The other motion passed was a dissention from the decision of the college’s Board of Trustees to nullify a Pitzer Student Senate resolution, which was aimed at adopting aspects of the “Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement.

The motion concerning the college’s study abroad program in Israel passed, calling for the “suspension of the College’s exchange with Haifa University, until (a) the Israeli state ends its restrictions on entry to Israel based on ancestry and/or political speech and (b) the Israeli state adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities.”

A Pitzer Student Senate resolution, 55-R-04, “A Resolution Denouncing Action by the Faculty That Eliminates Student Learning Opportunities,”  has been introduced to the student senate. The resolution asserts the faculty motion was about “forwarding a political agenda” and “eliminates student learning opportunities.” The Pitzer College Council—a student and faculty governance board—will deliberate whether to end the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa on Nov. 29.

“[O]nly the University of Haifa study abroad program was called into question without the same standards of review being applied to any other study abroad program,” the resolution added, stating that the decision to “act unilaterally without regard to Student Voice…constitutes an abuse of power and rebuke of Pitzer’s tradition of shared governance.”

The motion passed concerning BDS was a dissention from the decision of Pitzer College President, Melvin Oliver, and Pitzer College Trustees to nullify Pitzer Student Senate resolution 53-B-20. This resolution adopted aspects of the BDS movement, defined as “a global campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel” until it meets what the campaign describes as “[Israel’s] obligations under international law“, defined as withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promotion of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.”

Specifically, this resolution listed five companies that Pitzer would boycott: Caterpillar, SodaStream, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, Hewlett-Packard and Sabra. The resolution was controversial at the time of passing as the vote was held during Passover, an action that Jewish student leaders claimed at the time was intended to suppress their voice.

In the motion passed, the faculty stated “[i]ndependent of agreeing or disagreeing with that resolution, we the Faculty object to the president and trustees singling out this one issue as a basis for not accepting the Senate’s longstanding autonomy in controlling its funds, in the context of Pitzer’s governance system.”

According to a representative of Pitzer College, the motion concerning the Board of Trustee’s nullification of Pitzer Student Senate resolution 53-B-20 “was communicated to the Board [of Trustees],” and the motion concerning the suspension of the study abroad program in Israel “is being deliberated within Pitzer’s shared governance process.”

The Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (Claremont SJP) received news of the two motions passage “with great joy.” Claremont SJP called the study abroad program at Haifa “greatly problematic” and further stated “it is imperative that the colleges withdraw this program from their study abroad curriculums.” (emphasis original)

Claremont SJP further noted “the faculty of the college passed their two Motions following a multi-year process in which Pitzer students were actively brought into, and widely participated in, an inclusive and democratic conversation on the College’s relationship to Palestine-Israel. Claims to the contrary are misleading not factual.”

The group concluded that “[o]n November 8th, the faculty of the college decided to listen to student voices – to support the call for justice, respect and dignified life through Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement…The faculty motions are two important and crucial milestones in the path towards justice for Palestinians, and we hope that the Claremont student populace supports them with the utmost enthusiasm.”

A petition in support of the Haifa study abroad program has also been started “As strong supporters of free speech and academic freedom on campus, we are deeply troubled by the recent vote by members of the Pitzer Faculty calling for an end to the College’s study abroad program at the University of Haifa.”

The petition called for the Pitzer Student Senate to adopt Resolution 55-R-04, and issue a statement reaffirming Pitzer College’s support for the University of Haifa study abroad program.

Pitzer College is a member of the Claremont Colleges consortium, which also includes Pomona College, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont McKenna College, and Scripps College.

 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Student Senate Resolution 55-R-04 will have a vote on Nov. 29. The current version of this article reflects that the Pitzer College Council will deliberate whether to suspend college’s study abroad program in Israel on Nov. 29, instead of a Student Senate vote.

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