Pitzer College Faculty Votes to End Study Abroad in Israel, Student Government Resists

By Sephardic News Nov 27, 2018 12:36 PM

Pictured Above: West Hall and East Hall on the Pitzer College campus at dusk. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(November 27, 2018 / JNS) The faculty at Pitzer College in California voted earlier this month in favor of two anti-Israel motions on Monday: to halt its study-abroad program with the University of Haifa and a dissention in June regarding the school’s Board of Trustees invalidating a student government BDS resolution, which passed in April 2017.

The measure over the study-abroad program in Israel passed, urging 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 student government resolution, titled “A Resolution Denouncing Action by the Faculty That Eliminates Student Learning Opportunities,” was introduced before the student senate and will introduced to the student council later this week. It contends the faculty proposition was about “forwarding a political agenda” and “eliminates student learning opportunities.”

“[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,” added the resolution, saying that to “act unilaterally without regard to Student Voice … constitutes an abuse of power and rebuke of Pitzer’s tradition of shared governance.”

Moreover, the motion passed regarding BDS was a dissension from the decision of Pitzer College president Melvin Oliver and Pitzer College Trustees to cancel a student senate resolution, defining BDS as “a global campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel” until the Jewish state fulfills “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.”

“[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,” the faculty stated.

“The students voted for divestment a few years ago on Passover/Easter weekend. The board of trustees overturned it,” a Pitzer alum, who asked not to be named, told JNS. “And now this. Nothing surprises me.”

‘Universities have always been the first milieus … ’

Alan Dershowitz simply told JNS that what Pitzer’s faculty did was “bigotry and anti-Semitism to single out only the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Middle East Peace, said the actions by the faculty to halt the study-abroad program with the University of Haifa “highlights the ‘Palestinianization’ of the faculty emboldened by its pro-BDS faculty and the movement at large.”

“A deeper look, into this specific egregious motion underscores the disconnect between BDS and the reality of the Israel and the Middle East at large especially, given the amount of Arab students and faculty affiliated with Haifa University and benefit from Israel’s higher education,” he said. “The anti-normalization which dominates pro-BDS resolutions highlights how ideological and closed-minded faculty are to actual facts which are overshadowed by their opinions.”

Pro-Israel groups, such as the AMCHA Initiative, condemned the faculty motions.

“Calling to shut down a school’s study abroad program in Israel is exactly what an academic boycott looks like,” AMCHA said in an appealto contact Oliver. “Indeed, the 2014 guidelines of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) specifically call on faculty boycotters to work towards the closure of their own university’s study-abroad programs in Israel.”

“These non-binding motions are deeply discriminatory and disappointing. Suspending study abroad in Haifa would limit educational opportunities for students and cut off the free exchange of ideas,” Ron Krudo, StandWithUs executive director of Campus Affairs, told JNS. “That said, we are encouraged by the student government’s criticism of the anti-study abroad motion and note that other governing bodies at Pitzer still have the chance to stand up for academic freedom.”

“The faculty vote to suspend Pitzer College’s study-abroad program with the University of Haifa is a despicable effort by the faculty to impose their hateful anti-Semitic, anti-Israel political agenda on students,” Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told JNS. “Faculty have no right to violate Pitzer students’ academic freedom and dictate where they can and cannot study.”

“By these two acts, Pitzer College has demonstrated that the true mission of any college, the pursuit of knowledge and truth has been eclipsed by the current in vogue wave of anti-Semitism that has been thinly cloaked in anti-Zionism,” Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), told JNS. “They are ignoring the history of the conflict, and the constant Israeli offers for peace that have been rejected, time and time again, by the Palestinians. Universities have always been the first milieus where anti-Semitism has taken root.”

“In Weimer Germany, just before the advent of Nazism, the universities were the first institutions to fire its Jewish employees and faculty,” added Stern. “The philosopher Martin Heidegger actually fired the father of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl. Let’s call it what it is. This is just the current mutation of a familiar old virus: anti-Semitism.”