President of California college says he will ignore faculty BDS motion
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President of California college says he will ignore faculty BDS motion

Melvin Oliver rejects ‘prejudiced’ recommendation to suspend Pitzer’s study program with Haifa University due to Israeli treatment of Palestinians

Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver addressed students and faculty on March 11, 2016. (screen capture: Pitzer College)
Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver addressed students and faculty on March 11, 2016. (screen capture: Pitzer College)

JTA — Faculty at California’s Pitzer College voted in favor of suspending its study abroad program in Israel, but the institution’s president said he would ignore their motion.

Thursday’s non-binding recommendation by faculty at the college governing body was spearheaded by proponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, according to the American Jewish Committee, which condemned the vote as an “outrageous attack on academic freedom.”

The recommendation to suspend the study abroad program at Haifa University passed with a majority of 68 in favor and 25 opposing. Another eight voters abstained. Shortly afterwards Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver rejected the motion, stating that, “I am refusing to permit Pitzer College to take a position that I believe will only harm the College.”

The motion calls for suspending the program until “the Israeli state ends its restrictions on entry to Israel based on ancestry and/or political speech” and until it “adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities.”

But Oliver wrote this language does not faithfully represent the scope of the recommendation.

The University of Haifa campus. (Courtesy)

“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,” Oliver wrote in a statement.

“By singling out Israel, the recommendation itself is prejudiced,” he added.

University of Haifa President Ron Robin said the Pitzer faculty had given “its seal of approval to contemporary anti-Semitism.”

“The Pitzer boycott is particularly misguided given the fact that at University of Haifa, 35 percent of our students are Arabs, and that our Israeli and Arab students work together harmoniously on extracurricular activities and community service,” Robin said in a statement. “This is diversity, coexistence, and tolerance at its finest.”

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