Pitzer College President Visits Holy Land after Students Tried to Axe Israel Study Abroad Program

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As we reported at Accuracy in Academia, Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver is a supporter of academic freedom and fought back against a student-led effort to axe the college’s study abroad program in Israel by vetoing the resolution. The college faculty and students then tried to oust Oliver, but that effort failed.

Last week, Oliver visited Israel, and spoke at the University of Haifa’s 47th annual Board of Governors meeting and reiterated his opposition to the Boycott, Sanction and Divest (BDS) movement.

During his remarks at the conference in Haifa, Oliver emphasized, “Academic boycotts of any nation set us on a path of breaking the free exchange of ideas. To boycott a country on the basis of their policies is by definition a blanket indictment of the nation itself, and by extension its citizens.” Oliver thanked the University of Haifa for continuing to support its ties with Pitzer College during the controversy.

Oliver thanked the University of Haifa and its president, Ron Robin, “for standing with us in the defense of the educational mission of both our institutions.” He continued, “It is a credit to your institution that in this debate no one can point to any policies or actions by the University of Haifa that would even be remotely linked to a rationale of suspending our program. With your diverse student body, you are really a model institution for us to partner with and I hope we can continue for years to come.”

Oliver noted how politicized the BDS movement has become, “As President, I discovered early on that the more I addressed the details of any BDS-inspired argument, the more I became just another political combatant in what appears to be a never-ending content of assertion and counter-assertion. This is the essence of polarized thinking today.” Regarding his veto of the resolution, he said that it was “in the defense of the educational mission” of Pitzer College.

The University of Haifa presented Oliver with a “Hamsa Hand” for his leadership, which is an amulet that allegedly brings the owner good luck.