Claremont, Calif.--The Pitzer College Council voted 67-28 Thursday to affirm the suspension of the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa in Israel, citing Israel’s discriminatory restrictions on entry to Israel based on race and legitimate political speech.
The vote was immediately nullified by Pitzer president Melvin Oliver, which is the first time in the College’s 56-year history the administration has vetoed a decision of the College Council, Pitzer’s college-wide governance body, in which faculty, students, and staff vote. It follows another unprecedented Board of Trustees veto of a 2017 Student Senate vote in support of BDS.
Regarding Thursday’s College Council vote, Daniel Segal, a faculty sponsor the resolution said: “The historic vote is the first known decision by a college governing body in the U.S. to suspend its study abroad program in response to Israel’s human rights violations,” Segal added: “President Oliver’s veto of the 67-28 vote of the College Council shows that his deeply personal commitment to protect Israeli apartheid is more important to him than the best interests of the College.”
“This also shows a failure to appreciate that Palestinians are our fellow human beings, and a contempt for the College’s democratic process,” Segal continued.
The vote for suspension follows a November 2018 vote by the faculty to suspend the study abroad program, as well as to condemn the university administration’s unprecedented nullification of a 2017 student senate vote in favor of divesting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
To defeat the vote, anonymous right-wing groups posted a Facebook alert calling Professor Segal "creepy Dan" and an antisemite, and postered the campus with images equating support for suspending the program with terrorism. These accusations echo a strategy described by ex-Mossad agents to defeat BDS by equating it with terrorism.
“Attempts by President Oliver and others to thwart Pitzer College's majority's vote come straight out of the Israel suppression playbook,” said Liz Jackson, a senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal. “First Pitzer's vote faced relentless harassment targeting Palestinian rights supporters, and now the President announced he will nullify the democratic will of the College. This is the second nullification of democratic majority support for Palestinian rights at Pitzer. And it's only the latest in a long string of incidents where Pitzer has applied discriminatory treatment to restrict support for Palestine.”
“Pitzer College prides itself on an unprecedented level of staff, student, and faculty participation in governance,” professor Daniel Segal said. “This 70% majority reflects an extraordinary level of staff, student, and faculty support for the suspension of the Haifa program; the administration needs to respect our collective democratic decision.”