Jewish Groups Praise Pitzer College President for Rebuffing Anti-Israel Faculty Vote

A group of 75 civil rights, education, Jewish and student groups praised Pitzer College President Melvin L. Oliver for disavowing a faculty vote to end the school’s year abroad program with the University of Haifa, according to a statement released Friday by the Amcha Initiative.

The Israel Project, which publishes The Tower, was one of the groups to sign the letter in support of President Oliver.

The faculty had voted last Wednesday to suspend the program with the Israeli university.

However, the next day, Oliver gave a speech sharply criticizing the vote at a meeting of the Pitzer College Council — a joint board consisting of students and faculty — calling a “repudiation of Pitzer’s values.”

Oliver added that “this [suspension] would be paltry support for Palestinian rights and a major blow to Pitzer College’s mission,” explaining that suspending the program was “inconsistent with Pitzer’s core values,” and that it would “foolishly alienate Jewish and non-Jewish constituents,” of the college, including alumni and donors.

Addressing one of the faculty’s pretexts for suspending the study abroad program at Haifa University, Oliver noted that Israel’s Supreme Court had said that Israel could not deny visas to students on account of views that they held.

“China currently has 1 million Muslims imprisoned in re-education camps. Why would we not suspend our program with China?” Oliver argued, addressing the faculty’s decision more generally. “Or take our longest standing program in Nepal where the Pitzer in Nepal program has been run for over 40 years. During that time they have had a bloody civil war that killed 19,000 people. Why Israel?”

Instead of singling out Israel, “Pitzer College must continue to be appreciated for its diversity of political and socio-economic views,” Oliver said.

The statement released by the Amcha Initiative expressed the “appreciation” of the groups to Oliver for his taking a stand “to defend and protect the rights of all Pitzer students to study in and about Israel.”

The Amcha Initiative is a civil rights organization that “monitors more than 400 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity.” Its unique real-time tracking system monitors the occurrences of on-campus anti-Semitic incidents.

In October, a professor at the University of Michigan was disciplined after he refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student planning to study in Israel.

[Photo: Pitzer College / YouTube ]