Skip to Content

7C students rally for academic boycott of Israeli universities as Pitzer College Council votes to suspend study abroad program with University of Haifa

(Annabelle Ink • The Student Life)
” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ class=”size-full wp-image-75173″ src=”″ alt=”Students gather to rally at Mcconnell at Pitzer College” width=”715″ height=”477″ srcset=” 6000w, 300w, 1024w, 768w, 1536w, 2048w, 272w, 1430w, 2145w” sizes=”(max-width: 715px) 100vw, 715px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>
On April 11, about 200 7C students rallied at Pitzer’s McConnell Apron for the college to enact an academic boycott on all Israeli universities. (Annabelle Ink • The Student Life)

On Thursday, April 11, approximately 200 7C students gathered at Pitzer College’s McConnell Apron to rally in support of an academic boycott against Israeli universities.

Echoing chants of “Free, free, free Palestine,” many of the attendees marched directly from Pomona College’s Alexander Hall, where had just concluded a condemning Pomona’s , calling for the administration to drop all legal and disciplinary charges and to divest from “the apartheid system within Israel.”

The rally, which was organized by , began at around 3:45 p.m. and lasted for a little over an hour, continuing as the . This resolution calls for Pitzer to permanently suspend its pre-approved program with the University of Haifa on the grounds that it supports a university complicit in “Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing.” It additionally states Pitzer will not open any new pre-approved programs with any Israeli university as part of an academic boycott.

Although Pitzer with the University of Haifa from its list of pre-approved study abroad programs earlier this month, Allen Omoto, the college’s dean of faculty, stated that this was . Instead, he explained that the program, along with 10 other programs, was removed because of its failure to meet Pitzer’s study abroad criteria due to lack of enrollment.

However, during the College Council meeting, senators speaking on behalf of the resolution explained that the Haifa program was closed by Pitzer’s Study Abroad and International Programs (SAIP) committee in response to a proposal claiming the program was not aligned with Pitzer’s core values.

SAIP explained this proposal in an email to the Pitzer curriculum committee and Academic Planning Committee, citing students’ longstanding efforts to close the pre-approved program.

“Additional criteria regarding alignment with Pitzer values and adequate local resources are cited in the Haifa-specific proposal,” the email stated. “SAIP Committee notes that this latter proposal comes with considerable community support.”

According to an SJP member, Thursday’s rally in support of the resolution called specifically for an academic boycott of universities that are “part of the military-industrial complex and are materially and intellectually supporting the genocide and apartheid the Palestinian people are facing.” 

Another SJP member opened a series of speeches at the rally by reiterating the goals of the “” campaign and reflecting on SJP’s journey toward getting Pitzer to endorse an academic boycott.

“As we stand here, united and listening, let us not only fight for the liberation of the lost, but to stand firm in our commitment to justice, peace and resilience for every human being,” they said. “For we are not free until all of us are free. In the face of unimaginable pain it is our duty to ensure that the stories of the fallen are not forgotten.”

After this, another member of SJP spoke about the experiences of Palestinian students at the University of Haifa, citing examples of the university’s discrimination against them.

“The University of Haifa touts their diversity statistics as 40 percent Palestinian students, but this is merely the liberal veil of diversity and inclusion politics,” the member said. “Haifa is arguably the most repressive university to be Palestinian [at], as [Palestinian students] are limited to protesting only on Mondays from 12 to 2 p.m. and are routinely suspended and arrested on their own campuses.”

The member then addressed the topic of academic freedom, highlighting the importance of inclusive academic opportunities for all students. They suggested that Palestinian Pitzer students are not safe at the University of Haifa and argued that in order for Pitzer to stay true to its stated values, it must enact an academic boycott.

“Academic freedom is freedom for all, but how is it academic freedom for Palestinian students at [Pitzer] who don’t have the right to return to their indigenous homelands as they cannot go on this program?” the student said. “Today, we stand outside of the College Council and show these faculty that their students are mobilized, their students are fighting and their students are building a freer world.”

Following this, a 2021 Pitzer graduate who was highly involved in SJP and who helped establish during his time at the college, reflected on his experience with organizing the “Suspend Pitzer Haifa” campaign in 2019. He specifically pointed to former Pitzer President Melvin Oliver’s of the to suspend the program.

“[In 2019] when we were organizing the Suspend Haifa campaign, it felt like we lost because [Oliver] vetoed us and we weren’t expecting it,” the alum said. “Even though it felt like we lost at the time, I think I realized that actually, the victory was that we had dramatically changed the opinion of Pitzer through unified organizing.” 

The alum then spoke about the importance of student organizing, arguing that it is crucial for people to stay united during moments of crises. 

“The only way that we win as normal people is by coming together and creating a crisis for people in power,” the alum said. “What matters is that every single person in this crowd finds ways to plug in to building power and building the movement for the long term.”

Several students also made speeches expressing their solidarity with SJP’s campaign, condemning both the recent police presence on Pomona’s campus and the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians.

After this, members of , a Jewish student community at the 5Cs, spoke on behalf of over 100 Jewish students, faculty and alumni who recently signed a letter to Pomona’s administration expressing their outrage at the recent arrests.

The members drew attention to the contrasting responses of Pomona administration during student occupations on two occasions: According to them, Nishmat members were welcomed when they occupied Alexander Hall in December 2023 to observe Shabbat and to ask administration for the recognition of the genocide in Gaza, but students who protested inside Alexander Hall and Pomona President Gabi Starr’s office on April 5 were met with heavily armed riot police and the arrest of 20 students.

“We have been shown that we hold a position of privilege and special protection in exercising our right to peaceful protest, one that is not offered to many of our peers,” the members said. “We feel compelled to use our voices to ensure that these protections are applied to all of our peers across all of the colleges and our Jewish values will continue to compel us to action.”

Following this, two members of the Claremont chapter for Faculty for Justice in Palestine — Professor Lara Deeb, the chair of anthropology and Middle East and North African studies at Scripps College and Professor Heather Ferguson, associate professor of history at Claremont McKenna College — made speeches reiterating their support for an academic boycott. 

“If I was allowed into that Pitzer meeting happening right now, I would remind them that for many of us in Claremont, Pitzer is supposed to be the social justice conscience of this consortium,” Deeb said. “Students from Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps are making sure that Palestine and Palestinians are central to our lives here and that there can be no business as usual during the genocide.”

Then, members of Pitzer’s Latinx Student Union made a speech expressing their support for the campaign, highlighting how the experience of Palestinians in Gaza mirrors the historical struggles of the Latinx community.

“As Latinx students, we are products of white supremacy and settler colonialism and historically understand the violence inflicted on our ancestors, which continues to manifest itself in present day Latin America,” they said. “With this knowledge, we have an obligation to advocate for those experiencing ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination and [to] do what we can to prevent the continuation of these violences.” 

Members of Mudders against Murder, Pitzer’s Queer & Trans+ Alliance and Pitzer’s Women of Color Collective also made speeches expressing their solidarity with the campaign.

After the speeches were made, members of SJP asked students to stay behind so that they could go inside of the lobby and chant when the College Council voted on the bill, ensuring that they could “hear us and how many of us are out here to support an academic boycott.”

Following the rally, the College Council to pass Resolution 60-R-5. However, before the vote, Pitzer President Strom C. Thacker announced that he would veto this decision. 

During the meeting and in an sent to the Pitzer community that evening, Thacker stated that he is opposed to any type of academic boycott, noting that he believes it is against the college’s values of academic freedom.

“I do not support an academic boycott of any country, as it directly opposes our educational mission and our commitment to academic freedom,” the statement reads.

He specifically cited guidelines set by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which has historically advocated against academic boycotts.

“We reject proposals that curtail the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues, and we reaffirm the paramount importance of the freest possible international movement of scholars and ideas,” Thacker wrote, quoting the AAUP.

He acknowledged the careful consideration he took when making this decision and invited the Pitzer community to continue to further engage in discussion of the topic. 

“I have considered the issues with an open mind, listened actively, engaged in thoughtful and considered discussion, and shown respect throughout,” he wrote. “As president, I have made my decision based on the key principles set forth above, which are in the best interests of the College as a whole. I know many will disagree with this decision. I look forward to engaging further in constructive and respectful dialogues in our shared community.”

This announcement has been condemned by many on-campus groups that have supported the resolution including Claremont SJP and JVP, which have directly called out Thacker in a for an action they stated undermines Pitzer’s democratic legislative process.

“Democratically passed legislation is not a recommendation,” Claremont SJP and JVP wrote in the post. “We will continue to remind Strom Thacker the War Backer that a veto is a vote for apartheid.”

At the time of publication, no official veto has been made.