(November 30, 2018 / JNS) Pitzer College president Melvin Oliver slammed the school’s faculty on Thursday for voting 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.
“I have listened to the arguments and observations made in support of this motion and frankly, I find that they show little or no consideration for our educational objectives and mission; in fact, I find the outcome of the discussion to be a repudiation of our educational mission,” said Oliver at the Pitzer College Council.
“To deny Pitzer students who want to study at Haifa University the opportunity to study abroad, and to enter into dialogue and promote intercultural understanding at the altar of political considerations is anathema to Pitzer’s core values,” he continued. “If the suspension of the Haifa University program becomes a reality, this will be paltry support for the cause of Palestinian rights, and a major blow to the reputation and reality of Pitzer College as a scholarly institution committed to its stated values of intercultural understanding and the ability of students to pursue their vision of educational engagement.”
Pitzer did not respond to a request for comment regarding who makes the final decision on study-abroad programs.
The faculty 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.”
Oliver also said that “much was made of the supposed legal restrictions on ‘critics of Israeli policy’ and ‘proponents of BDS’ in being able to access study abroad opportunities in Israel.
“Pitzer College, along with every college in the country, promotes exchanges and study abroad in countries with significant human-rights’ abuses,” he said. “China, for example, has killed, tortured and imprisoned up to 1 million people in Tibet and utterly obliterated the Tibetan nation.”
Oliver added, “The faculty’s action has already caused Pitzer College substantial and unnecessary damage by creating the impression that Pitzer is an illiberal place where its supposed core value of intercultural understanding is sacrificed on the altar of narrow and selectively applied political interests. If the motion is enacted, the damage will be much worse still.”