With the apparent support of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a college in Southern California voted this week to do away with a study abroad program in Israel.
The Pitzer College council, composed of faculty members and student senators, passed a motion 67-28, with eight abstentions, to eliminate the program, according to The Student Life, the college’s newspaper.
Tlaib, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, seemingly endorsed the move, which would have suspended the partnership between Pitzer and the University of Haifa in Israel. Pitzer professor Daniel Segal shared a photo of the Democratic lawmaker:
— Daniel A. Segal (@DanSegal14) March 11, 2019
The vote to suspend the program came months after Segal and faculty executive committee chair Claudia Strauss presented a motion to eliminate study abroad partnerships with countries that “restrict entry on the basis of either (a) legally protected political speech or (b) race or ancestry (as distinct from citizenship).”
But the motion was short-lived. Within just three hours of the vote, Pizter President Melvin Oliver vetoed the move to suspend the study abroad program in Israel, The Student Life reported.
In a lengthy statement issued Thursday, Oliver argued such a move would curtail academic freedom of students and would cause “irreparable” damage to the school’s reputation.
“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,” he wrote. “I categorically oppose any form of academic boycott of any country.”
Oliver went on to describe the recommendation as prejudiced for “singling out Israel.”
“We do not solve one injustice by committing another,” he explained. “If implemented, the recommendation would unnecessarily alienate a large cross section of the college’s constituencies.”
Interestingly, Tlaib, who identifies as a Palestinian-American, is apparently on board with cutting a partnership with a college that boasts a 40 percent Arab student body.
Haifa University, which Rep. Tlaib has endorsed a boycott against, is 40+% Arab. It is the most diverse university in Israel. @RashidaTlaib seeks to destroy the futures of thousands of fellow Arabs simply because they choose to study in Israel. Shameful. https://t.co/n6dyeRpWAp
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) March 14, 2019
According to data compiled in 2017 by the Israeli government, the University of Haifa is home to the largest percentage of Arab students in the Jewish state. Of the 18,000 students enrolled at the school, more than 7,000 of them are Arab.
Furthermore, the number of Arab students seeking higher education in Israel has increased by 79 percent since 2010.