Students, SJP Protest Pitzer President Decision to Keep Israel Study Abroad
Shortly after the Pitzer College student-faculty vote to suspend the College’s study abroad program with Israel’s University of Haifa, Pitzer’s President released a statement indicating that he will “not implement this recommendation.”
Insisting that his decision did not involve “taking a position” on the issue, President Oliver highlighted his belief that approving such a vote would “only harm [Pitzer] College” as well as put “at risk [its] long-term best interests,” referring to the potential compromise of academic freedom that such an implementation would entail, emphasizing part of Pitzer’s mission statement, namely “to educate our students.”
In addition, Oliver insisted that he will “work with the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC),” the group that previously voted on the motion, with the aim of seeking for the College “greater engagement, not less, in the world our students will one day lead.”
Oliver’s choice was influenced, in his words, by “common sense, [which] dictates that there must be a consensus across all the College’s internal and external constituencies in support of [a political] position.” The earlier vote of 67-28 in favor of suspension, and the debate preceding it, which lasted nearly two hours, indicated further divisions of opinion amongst Pitzer’s internal constituencies. While some faculty referred to Haifa as “one of the most liberal institutions in Israel at this time,” others declared it complicit in Israeli military actions against Palestinians.
Meanwhile, outraged students have taken to social media, with many resorting to name-calling and demanding a rally to protest his recent decision. The rally has been postponed for now, but organizers have promised to send out updates every fifteen minutes, and current preparatory status is unclear. Students across social media platforms have expressed their discontent with the president’s decision; from posts on social media, it seems likely that a protest will be held sometime in the near future. Some students even resorted to name-calling, with one student calling Oliver a “b*tch boy” in a comment of a picture another student posted of Oliver sitting in an airplane.
The original call for protest.
Updates on a potential protest.
Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (CSJP) recently stated in a Facebook post that “President Oliver disrespectfully rejected [the vote] by saying he would not implement the council recommendation.” Under the hashtag #ProApartheidOliver, the group has begun circulating a petition online urging Oliver to reverse his decision. According to the group, students “will continue to organize to suspend Haifa and demand that President Oliver reverse his decision.” CSJP has also started a petition against Oliver’s decision, stating in the petition that CSJP “will continue to organize to suspend Haifa and demand that President Oliver reverse his decision.” The petition has gained over 70 signatures in less than an hour.
Claremont SJP’s Post
One student, who spoke to the Independent on condition of anonymity—fearing possible backlash amid student outrage against the decision—welcomed President Oliver’s veto, arguing that “academic freedom comes before the ephemeral questions of political allegiance,” adding that such an implementation would the only reason we are allowed to have these conversations about Israel in the first place is that “we’re academics who respect our rights to speak, to learn, and to study with each other.” Upon hearing of students name-calling the Pitzer college president, the student remarked that “5C [Claremont Colleges] administrators have sat idly by as Claremont was infected by a culture of endemic political harassment, where anyone, anytime can become the target of hate mobs. You reap what you sow,” attributing the harassment of President Oliver to a prominent culture of political intolerance at the Claremont Colleges, of which Pitzer is a member.
This article has been updated to include more recent comments students had about Oliver on social media.