On Feb. 3, Pitzer College’s Student Senate voted down a resolution condemning a faculty decision to vote in favor of suspending Pitzer’s only study abroad program in Israel with the University of Haifa. Members of the Pitzer Student Senate introduced Resolution 55-R-04 last semester after the vote by Pitzer faculty favoring suspending the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa. The resolution—which also aims to “[encourage] faculty to more thoroughly collaborate with students before pursuing steps that directly impact students”—ended up failing with a vote of two in favor to 16 against, with many student senators abstaining.
The resolution—which was tabled multiple times last semester—asked that “the Pitzer College Student Senate denounces the Faculty’s desire to suspend the study abroad program at the University of Haifa without consultation from the Student Body at large and the Faculty’s decision to act unilaterally without regard to Student Voice, which is an abuse of power and undermines Pitzer’s tradition of shared governance.”
The Senate discussed the resolution, with some senators expressing some concerns about the shared governance structure but also upset that the issue was tied into the specific Haifa study abroad decision. Other senators expressed support for the faculty’s decision, with one senator urging “my fellow senators not to pass the resolution because I think it unnecessarily condemns faculty who are really trying to support us and the decision we made last spring and our power over making our own decisions,” referencing when Pitzer’s Board of Trustees blocked the Student Senate from passing pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) amendments to the budget.
Another senator stated he “appreciate[s] the faculty moving the BDS movement forward unapologetically and as a student of Africana studies that we should work towards Palestinian liberation unapologetically.”
Pitzer College president Melvin L. Oliver previously stated that suspending the study abroad program in Israel would “foolishly alienate Jewish and non-Jewish constituents.”
Other senators noted their support for Palestinian liberation and expressed their desire that the Pitzer Senate not only refuse to condemn the Faculty but rather support them:
“I am speaking in support of suspending the Haifa program, what it means for human rights/standing in support for Palestinian people and see overall what it means in this situation. As American college students we need to speak up for what is happening,” a senator expressed.
“We have a real platform here, I urge you all to vote no and prioritize the Palestinian people… If you want to make a statement on shared governance, it needs to be separated with the Haifa program,” another student senator added.
It was further noted, referencing the testimony at the last Pitzer College Council meeting, that some faculty expressed surprise that there was controversy over its decision from a standpoint of shared governance. One of the leading faculty members pushing the abolishment of the Haifa program asserted his belief that students had been involved at many points in the process.
The Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (Claremont SJP) received news of the faculty vote “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)
The next College Council is scheduled for March 14, where it is expected that the issue of the suspension of the University of Haifa program will be discussed in length, and a decision voted on by its members. Decisions by the College Council usually shape college policy.
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