On Sunday, February 4th, the Pitzer Student Senate deliberated on resolution 60-R-5, a proposal to suspend the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa in Israel. This initiative, spearheaded by the Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), seeks to discontinue any further academic exchanges or programs with institutions in Israel until they cease their alleged involvement in discriminatory practices against Palestinians.
Proponents of the resolution stressed the significance of this measure during open debate. They underscored direct requests from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) and Right to Education, a campaign founded at Birzeit University in the West Bank, emphasizing the proposal’s alignment with the wider Palestinian-led movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) founded in 2005. Other advocates cited reported incidents of racism against Arab students at the university, its hosting of Israeli military training, Israel’s ongoing trial in the International Court of Justice, and Pitzer’s commitment to social responsibility as reasons to support it.
Some senators argued that Pitzer’s study abroad partnership with the University of Haifa is already defunct: one student claimed that Pitzer staff in the study abroad office do not even have current contact information for the program, and another senator noted that no Pitzer students had participated in the program for several years. This outnumbered group recommended that the resolution instead focus on compelling Pitzer President Strom Thacker to communicate the college’s opposition to “all actions deemed genocidal.” Another student referred to a proposal currently under review by faculty committees to clearly define the process for closing programs in the future.
Yet, the resolution’s proponents saw these as administrative attempts to close the program quietly and disagreed with any attempts to modify the core aims of the resolution, stressing the symbolic value of 60-R-5 to set a precedent for subsequent academic boycotts at colleges and universities across the nation. “The end goal of the Suspend Haifa Campaign and this resolution that we’re talking about today is not just to suspend our ties with the University of Haifa or to close the program…the end goal of this is to set precedent for an institutional boycott around the country,” a proponent said.
According to one of the resolution's supporters, Palestinians chose to call on Pitzer specifically because of its small size and its democratic governance structure. That does not mean, however, that faculty and students have the final say at Pitzer. In March 2019, the faculty, student, and staff-composed Pitzer College Council voted 67-28 to suspend the Haifa program, but then-president Melvin Oliver unilaterally vetoed the decision, citing its political nature and claiming it was prejudicial in “singling out” Israel.
Despite its previous failure, Claremont SJP re-launched the campaign to suspend Pitzer-Haifa in March of 2023, nearly a year after Oliver’s retirement as president, in hopes that his successor would be more amenable to their agenda. Since then, the club has held a “snackie” event, a poster-making event, a rally, and a donation strike as part of the campaign. Like the rest of SJP’s advocacy, the campaign has gained much energy and urgency from the conflict in Gaza that began in October.
The club demonstrated on Sunday that it has not forgotten its past setbacks. Acknowledging that, if it passes, the resolution will likely be vetoed again, one proponent vowed that it would “keep coming back” and that the college would “keep having pressure on it.”
The resolution will be put to a final vote this Sunday at 7:00 PM.