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Pitzer College faculty vote to suspend school’s study abroad program in Israel

Draws criticism from student senate

Pitzer College’s faculty senate recently passed two anti-Israel motions — one calling for the suspension of the school’s study abroad program in the country, and the other in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, an anti-Israel campaign.

Pitzer College did not respond to a request for comment from The College Fix about whether the faculty council’s motion will be acted upon. However, a university spokeswoman told Inside Higher Ed the issue is under consideration through Pitzer’s shared governance process.

The faculty senate voted on the resolution to end support for studying abroad in Israel on Nov. 8, and it was approved by at least a four-to-one ratio, IHE reports.

In response, Pitzer’s student senate voted on a resolution condemning the faculty’s overreach that was voted on Nov. 11. It is unclear if the resolution will pass due to a procedural issue.

Isaiah Kramer, one of the authors of the student resolution, told The Fix in an email that it seeks to combat “a long-running political agenda driven by members of the Pitzer faculty to academically boycott the State of Israel.”

The college faculty at the private, Southern California institution included in their resolution under what conditions it would reinstate travel to Israel — when “the Israeli state ends its restrictions on entry to Israel based on ancestry and/or political speech,” and second, “the Israeli state adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities,” The Claremont Independent reported.

The faculty’s other controversial motion is a dissent from a board of trustees decision made this past June. In June, the Pitzer Board of Trustees nullified a budget amendment from the student senate that would have embraced the BDS movement, according to The Independent.

The budget amendment had stated that Student Activities Funds would not be used to patronize specific corporations and organizations associated with “the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, as first delineated by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.” The budget then listed the corporations. It was passed this past April during a holiday when several students were not present to vote on the amendment.

The board of trustees nullified the amendment in order to maintain the neutrality of the Student Activities Funds. The college faculty dissented, objecting to the “singling out this one issue as a basis for not accepting the Senate’s longstanding autonomy in controlling its funds,” according to The Independent.

On Nov. 11, two student senators authored the resolution with a third as a sponsor that denounced the faculty’s motion to suspend the study abroad program.

Despite the student senate’s previous support of the BDS movement, the resolution claimed that the faculty overreached in voting to “eliminate the University of Haifa study abroad program without consulting with other actors in Pitzer’s system of shared governance, including student representatives or the student body at large.”

It also accused the faculty of seeking to forward a “clear political agenda” and argued that the motion “constitutes an abuse of power and rebuke of Pitzer’s tradition of shared governance.”

Claire Wengrod, the sponsor of the resolution, told The Fix in an email that the Student Senate seemed “appalled” at the unilateral attempt to eliminate an opportunity for student learning.

She explained the student resolution was introduced and voted through with 12 votes in favor and two against, but that a quorum was not met and no official business should have been conducted. Therefore the student resolution may not officially count.

Prof. Ron Robin, president of the University of Haifa, released a statement blasting the college faculty’s motion.

“As Pitzer’s Student Senate articulated in a powerful resolution, the faculty’s decision is ‘a flagrant advancement of a political agenda at the expense of students who seek opportunities in Middle East/North African Studies, Arabic, Hebrew, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the intercultural relations of Israeli and Palestinian ethnicities,” he wrote.

MORE: UMich professor refuses to write letter of recommendation, cites BDS

IMAGE: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock

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