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Pitzer President Thacker Vetoes Academic Boycott, School Closes Haifa Anyway

On Thursday, April 11, the Pitzer College Council (made up of Students and Faculty) approved Resolution 60-R-5, which seeks to terminate the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa, and prevents the college from opening any new programs with other Israeli universities. This decision follows action from the Pitzer Student Senate, which voted 34:1 in favor of the boycott resolution on February 11.


Although Thursday’s resolution was approved by a 48-19 vote, Pitzer President Strom C. Thacker indicated he would veto it during the preceding discussion.


Thacker elaborated on his position in a statement addressed to the Pitzer community shortly after the vote. "I have approached these issues with an open mind, actively listened, participated in thoughtful discussions, and maintained respect throughout," he writes in the statement, "As president, I have based my decision on what I believe to be in the best interests of the College as a whole. I understand that many may not agree with this decision. I am eager to continue our dialogue in a constructive and respectful manner within our community."


President Thacker's decision to veto is significant as Pitzer students and faculty have consistently demanded that the study abroad program be boycotted, citing the University of Haifa's alleged involvement in practices contrary to Pitzer's ethical standards. This advocacy first emerged in 2019, when a similar resolution to suspend the program passed 67:28 but was vetoed by then-President Melvin Oliver.


The controversy continues even after the program with the University of Haifa is no longer a pre-approved option. This change occurred after the Faculty Executive Committee decided on April 1 to remove 11 programs, including Haifa, from the college's pre-approved list, following Pitzer’s Study Abroad and International Programs (SAIP) Committee recommendations that questioned the alignment of the Haifa partnership with Pitzer's values.


On April 2, Dean of Faculty Allen Omoto clarified the reasoning behind discontinuing pre-approved status for the 11 study abroad programs. In a statement, he emphasized that this decision was based on concrete criteria rather than symbolic gestures. Omoto explained, “The programs are no longer pre-approved for Pitzer students because they fail to meet our criteria, specifically due to reasons such as lack of enrollments over the past five years, exchange imbalances, or overlapping curriculums.” He further clarified, “These programs are not closed, nor do these actions represent an academic boycott. They can still be reopened if conditions change.” 


Activists alternated between holding the April 2 decision as a victory and accusing Thacker and the administration of lying about the college’s reasoning and undermining student organizing. 

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