Pitzer president pledges to veto Haifa resolution

Pitzer College President Strom C. Thacker announced plans to veto a Pitzer College Council resolution that, if approved, would permanently shut down the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa in Israel. Photo/courtesy of Pitzer College

By Annabelle Ink | Special to the Courier

Pitzer College President Strom C. Thacker announced plans to veto a Pitzer College Council resolution that, if approved, would prevent the college from opening future institutional partnerships with any Israeli universities until they “end their complicity in Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

“I will not accept recommendations that run contrary to Pitzer’s commitment to academic freedom, to creating a safe and productive learning environment for all, and to the core value of intercultural understanding,” Thacker wrote in a April 11 statement following the council’s 48-19 vote to approve resolution 60-R-5. “I do not support an academic boycott of any country, as it directly opposes our educational mission and our commitment to academic freedom. We must always promote academic freedom, even when it is denied to others.

“The goals of a Pitzer education include listening to and learning from the lived experiences of others, opening our eyes through different cultural lenses, challenging our own beliefs and points of view, and endeavoring to become more critical thinkers,” Thacker wrote. “Rather than closing our minds, our hearts, and our doors, we need to seek out and create more educational opportunities for Pitzer students, not fewer. That commitment has not changed.

“The College Council voted on the recommendation earlier today, but this topic has been on my mind for many months,” he wrote. “I know many will disagree with this decision. I look forward to engaging further in constructive and respectful dialogues in our shared community.”

Pitzer College President Strom C. Thacker. Photo/courtesy of Pitzer College

Since its February 4 introduction, the resolution received support from more than 100 sponsors, including alumni, students, campus and faculty groups, and one external community sponsor. A list of the sponsors is viewable at https://shorturl.at/qtBXY.

The resolution passed the Pitzer Student Senate February 11 by a 34-1 vote.

Pitzer removed its study abroad program with the University of Haifa — as well as colleges in Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey, and the UK — from its list of pre-approved programs on April 1. And though some celebrated the move as progress in the Suspend Pitzer Haifa campaign, the college made clear it was not part of an academic boycott.

“The programs are no longer pre-approved for enrollment by Pitzer students because they do not meet our criteria, due, specifically, to lack of enrollments for at least five years, exchange imbalance, or curricular overlap,” read an April 2 statement from Allen M. Omoto, Pitzer’s vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty.

Thacker’s planned veto would follow nearly six years of organizing from Suspend Pitzer Haifa, led by the group Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine. In 2019, the Pitzer College Council voted 67-28 in support of suspending the program. Hours later former President Melvin Oliver vetoed the motion.

Ezra Levinson, a student sponsor of the recent resolution, expressed his displeasure with Thacker’s announcement. “When I signed on as a student sponsor of Resolution 60-R-5, I believed that President Thacker cared about constructive dialogue and valued the democratic shared governance structures at Pitzer College. He wrote in his 2008 book that the motto of good governance should be ‘Voice, not vetoes.’ I am deeply disappointed with President Thacker’s decision to effectively veto Resolution 60-R-5 by refusing to accept its passage through Pitzer’s College Council.”


Submit a Comment

Share This