Taking Advantage of Holiday Absences, Pitzer Senate Boycotts Israeli Products
On April 16, a date marking Easter Sunday and the Jewish holiday of Passover, 22 of the 43 Pitzer College Student Senate members voted on and approved an amendment to its “Budget Committee Bylaws” to boycott Israeli products with the entirety of its $270,000+ “Student Activities Funds” budget, which is funded through a mandatory $135 semesterly “Student Activities fee” ($270 per academic year) that the college collects from every Pitzer student and gives directly to the Student Senate.
Only 26 senators attended the vote, which occurred just one week after “Israeli Apartheid Week” during which Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) placed a “mock Israeli apartheid wall” in the center of campus. 22 senators supported the boycott amendment, while 4 abstained, 0 were opposed, and 17 were absent from the meeting.
The updated bylaws, including amended language, can be found in Article III of the bylaws available on the school website. Under the new bylaws, the only restrictions on the use of Student Activities funds are:
“I. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any illegal substances, as defined by all local, state, and federal laws.
II. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any weapons, firearms, and/or explosives, with an exception for kitchen tools, art supplies, and gardening equipment.
III. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any individual single-use plastic water bottles.
IV. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any alcohol and tobacco products.
V. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any gift cards.
VI. Student Activities Funds shall not be used to make a payment on goods or services from any corporation or organization associated with the unethical occupation of Palestinian territories. Products include those products from corporations and organizations as delineated in the boycott list maintained by bdsmovement.net/get-involved/what-toboycott.”
This move to endorse the “Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions” movement shatters precedent at Pitzer College and has already provoked strong reactions from Jewish, pro-Israel, and pro-Palestine student groups on campus.
Mica Laber (CMC ’18), a leader of the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance (CPIA), told the Independent that the circumstances of the vote, occurring “when a significant portion of the student leadership was absent … made clear the intentions to avoid any sort of productive debate.”
Laber added that “Student Senate leaders should have included the proposed amendment in the agenda prior to the meeting because this is an issue that students on campus are passionate about” and “many would have liked the opportunity to voice their opinions before any vote was called.”
Students from both the CPIA and the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity chapter on campus signed an online petition arguing not only against BDS, but also that the nature of the vote made its passage “unfair and purposefully unrepresentative of the student body.”
Despite the concerns of their peers, Claremont SJP released a statement describing the budget amendment as “an important victory.”