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Students Demand Pitzer College President Resign over Israel Program

Pro Palestinian demonstrators march through central London on July 25, 2014 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood/Getty
ALANA MASTRANGELO

Students at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, are demanding that the school’s president, Melvin Oliver, step down over his decision to keep the college’s study abroad program in Israel. Members of Pitzer’s student government introduced a “no confidence” resolution on Sunday, calling on Oliver’s “immediate resignation or removal from office.”

Pitzer College’s student government introduced a resolution on Sunday demanding that college president Melvin Oliver resign over his veto of the College Council’s vote to end its partnership and study abroad program with the University of Haifa in Israel.

“The recommendation puts in place a form of academic boycott of Israel and, in the process, 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,” said Oliver in a statement last month.

“I categorically oppose any form of academic boycott of any country,” added the college president, “We cannot allow our objections to the policies of any nation’s government to become a blanket indictment of the nation itself and, by extension, its citizens.”

Pitzer’s student government reacted with a resolution “enacting no confidence in the President of the College” calling on Oliver’s “immediate resignation or removal from office.”

The resolution also accuses the college’s administration of intervening “in autonomous, democratic, student-led decision-making on issues related to the College’s complicity in the oppression of the Palestinian people,” adding that the college is complicit in “furthering a culture of on-campus Islamophobia.”

“In the days following the Christchurch terrorist attack, the President’s Office did not issue a statement to the community,” states the resolution, adding that the college’s administrators failed to “explicitly condemn the posters trafficking in anti-Muslim tropes, posted in Atherton Hall, as ‘racist.'”

Last year, when the school’s faculty voted in favor of suspending the school’s only study abroad program in Israel, Oliver appeared at the Pitzer College Council’s November 29 meeting to express his concerns over the faculty vote, which he referred to as a “repudiation of Pitzer’s values,” according to a report by the Claremont Independent.

Oliver stated that the faculty’s motion was “a major blow to Pitzer College’s mission,” adding that the decision would be “inconsistent with Pitzer’s core values” and will “foolishly alienate Jewish and non-Jewish constituents.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.

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