College President Blocks Effort to End Study Abroad Program in Israel

Israeli right-wing activists demonstrate against a 'Nakba Day' ceremony held by Palestinian and Left-wing Israeli students at Tel Aviv University on May 14, 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
PENNY STARR

The College Council at Pitzer College, a private school in Claremont, California, voted to end its partnership and study abroad program with the University of Haifa in Israel, citing mistreatment of Palestinians, but the college president vetoed the resolution.

Members voted for the move despite the fact that the University of Haifa has the largest population of Arab students in Israel, according to a Haaretz report last year.

Inside Higher Education reported:

Members of the council, which is made up of faculty, students and staff and is Pitzer’s main legislative body for shared governance, voted 67 to 28 with eight abstentions in favor of suspending the study abroad program at the University of Haifa. Faculty at Pitzer had previously voted in favor of suspending the Israel study abroad program.

Supporters of the suspension of the Israel study abroad program frame the action in terms of supporting Palestinian rights and protesting Israeli visa and immigration policies that would restrict the ability of all students to study abroad at the country’s universities.

But in a statement explaining why he would not implement the recommendation, Oliver argued it was against the best interests of the college. He cited a number of reasons in his statement, including that the recommendation to suspend the Israel study abroad program “curtails the academic freedom of those students who wish to study at the University of Haifa.” He said that by putting in place an academic boycott of Israel, the recommendation “sets us on a path away from the free exchange of ideas, a direction which ultimately destroys the academy’s ability to fulfill our educational mission.”

Anthropology and history professor Daniel Segal, one of the main leaders pushing for the break between Pitzer and the University of Haifa, reacted to the veto in the Inside Higher Education story.

The vote “shows a failure to appreciate that Palestinians are our fellow human beings, and a contempt for the college’s democratic process,” Segal said.

“Because of the divisiveness of the president’s actions and his betrayal of the college’s core values, the president is doing grievous damage to the college I love and have served for 32 years,” Segal said. “And more importantly, he is doing grievous damage to the most plausible path to justice and a positive peace for all our sisters and brothers in Israel and Palestine alike.”

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