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June 16, 2017 2:54 pm

Pitzer College Board of Trustees Overturns Student Government Pro-BDS Vote

avatar by Rachel Frommer

Pitzer College. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Pitzer College board of trustees announced on Friday that, following “careful consideration,” it had decided to “rescind…and declare…to be of no effect” a student government vote held during Passover to add an anti-Israel boycott into its bylaws.

The decision, made public in an email sent to the campus community, overturned the student senate amendment prohibiting the use of Student Activities Funds “to make payments on goods and services from any corporation or organization associated with the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, as first delineated by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.” Those companies included Caterpillar, SodaStream, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, Hewlett-Packard and Sabra.

As The Algemeiner reported, Jewish students felt “ambushed” by the vote, particularly given that many concerned parties were off campus to observe Passover and Easter.

The Pitzer trustees explained their decision in their email:

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We note that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is among the most complex, emotional and divisive issues of our time, and is one on which the College has not taken a position. Students and other members of the Pitzer community, from all faiths and backgrounds, represent the full spectrum of viewpoints on this challenging issue…

Student Activities Funds are derived from mandatory fees the College levies upon all students. Consequently, the Board expects the Student Senate to remain neutral in determining the organizations it recognizes and funds, the amount of funding allocated to each organization, and any restrictions imposed on such funds.

[The BDS amendment] however, applies a particular point of view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in restricting the use of Student Activities Funds by all Student Senate-approved student groups. In so doing, [the amendment] inappropriately curtails the funds usage rights of all such groups, including those that may have a different perspective.

In Pitzer’s 54-year history, the Board has consistently supported Student Senate autonomy over the funds allocated to it by the College. However, the Board will not permit College assets to be restricted in order to endorse a point of view that is not the College’s and that, in the Board’s opinion, does not align with Pitzer’s commitment to inclusion and respect for diverse viewpoints.

In the days immediately before the start of the Passover holiday, the student government at Tufts University also passed a pro-BDS motion in a landslide vote, leaving some in the Jewish community feeling “betrayed” by their peers. Tufts’ trustees also announced soon afterwards that the resolution would have no effect on the university’s endowment.

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