College president ‘disappointed’ after student council rejects pro-Israel group
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College president ‘disappointed’ after student council rejects pro-Israel group

Maud Mandel of Williams College says ‘transcript of debate and vote indicate that the decision was made on political grounds’

Maud Mandel, the president of Williams College, speaking at the Association of Jewish Studies conference in Boston, Dec. 16, 2018. (Tim Correira)
Maud Mandel, the president of Williams College, speaking at the Association of Jewish Studies conference in Boston, Dec. 16, 2018. (Tim Correira)

The president of Williams College has criticized a decision by the student council not to recognize a pro-Israel campus group.

Last month, the council at the small liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts voted not to admit the Williams Initiative for Israel as a recognized student group.

In a statement last week, the college’s president, Maud Mandel, said that the “transcript of the debate and vote indicate that the decision was made on political grounds.”

“I’m disappointed” that the council did not follow “its own processes and bylaws,” she said, noting that the council’s bylaws do not mention political views as a criterion for student group recognition.

The student council voted on April 23 against recognizing the pro-Israel group after student activists expressed concerns about its support for Israeli policies regarding Palestinians. It is the first time in over a decade that a student group was rejected after complying with council bylaws, minutes from the meeting show, according to the Williams Record student newspaper.

Molly Berenbaum, one of the leaders of the pro-Israel group, said the students wanted to provide another point of view on campus.

“I do think that some of being a student is encountering intellectual ideas that make one very uncomfortable,” she told the Record. “And I think that the answer to encountering those ideas is to engage with them and to respond with your own perspective rather than try to shut down and silence that information.”

Mandel said the Williams Initiative for Israel would still be able to operate on campus and access all services available to student groups per university policy.

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