Student Senate Deliberates Pitzer President’s Resignation for Supporting Israel Study Abroad

Two weeks ago, Pitzer College’s President Melvin L. Oliver decided to keep the college’s only study abroad program in Israel—organized through the University of Haifa—against the faculty and student senate’s recommendation; the Student Senate is now drafting a resolution calling for Oliver’s resignation.

The resolution, if passed, would enact “no confidence in the President of the College,” and will “call for his [Oliver’s] immediate resignation or removal from office.”

The draft of the resolution

The resolution—which has gained a multitude of authors and sponsors—claims that after the Pitzer College Council, a governing body of faculty and student senators, voted to suspend Pitzer’s study abroad program in Israel, Oliver violated “the democratic spirit of shared governance of this College” after vetoing to vote, effectively keeping Pitzer’s study abroad program in Israel. As noted by the resolution, Oliver’s veto is the first in Pitzer’s 56-year history.

The resolution also claims that “anyone who acts as a fundraiser for the College must be able to endorse the faculty’s strong capability for intellectual and pedagogical success, based on the faculty’s experiences as educators and professional researchers…the President’s dismissal strongly articulates the idea that the College’s faculty offers arguments without merit, therefore impacting the College’s fundraising ability.” Oliver previously stated that suspending the study abroad program in Israel would “foolishly alienate Jewish and non-Jewish constituents.”

The resolution also criticized how the college’s administration overturned a Student Senate amendment two years ago enacting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) regulations to Student Senate spending.

The resolution accuses Oliver and the college administration of being complicit in Islamophobia:

“[T]he College’s administration will not explicitly condemn the posters trafficking in anti-Muslim tropes, posted in Atherton Hall, as ‘racist,’ and…in the days following the Christchurch terrorist attack, the President’s Office did not issue a statement to the community, and furthermore, a faculty member penned an email to the students, faculty and staff of the College baselessly insinuating its Palestinian and/or Muslim students inherently hold the potential to act violently—furthering a culture of on-campus Islamophobia without pushback.” (emphasis original)

Since making the decision to preserve Pitzer’s study abroad program in Israel, Oliver has faced backlash—including name-calling on social media—by students. The Claremont chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has also launched a petition calling for Oliver to reverse his decision, with over 900 students from the Claremont Colleges—a college consortium of which Pitzer is a member—signing as of publication time.

Photo: Pitzer College

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