Counter the Board of Trustees' Anti-democratic Revocation of Pitzer Senate's BDS Amendment!
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Petition in Support of Palestinian Human Rights at Pitzer College:
On April 30th, the Pitzer College Student Senate amended Article III (Student Activities Funds), Section 2 (Restrictions) of its Budget Committee Bylaws. The amendment, Paragraph VI, "prohibits the use of Student Activities Funds for…payments on goods or services from the following corporations and organizations associated with the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, as first delineated by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement:
C. Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories
The amendment passed with overwhelming support: twenty-five in favor and nine against. Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine celebrated this amendment as a crucial first step in ending our complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. We want to know that our tuition dollars are not funding companies that violate the basic rights and dignity of Palestinians.
We were deeply disturbed to find out that a month and a half later the Board of Trustees decided to unilaterally rescind this amendment. In its own letter to the Pitzer community, the Board acknowledges that their legislative intervention breaks with Pitzer’s 54-year history of “Student Senate autonomy over the funds allocated to it by the College.” It is particularly revealing that the Board rescinded the amendment during the summer break, when students were not present to form a democratic response.
In their letter to the Pitzer community, the Trustees claim that they are applying a so-called neutrality rule in relation to restrictions on the uses of student activity fees. However, the Student Senate has an established history of instituting restrictions on student activity fees as a means of protest. In 2006, the Student Senate passed a boycott of products purchased at Wal-Mart stores, which was never publicly challenged by the Trustees. We see the roles of the companies on this list in the violation of Palestinian human rights as being fundamentally similar to the role of Wal-Mart in human rights violations via the widespread use of sweatshops. The repudiation of this amendment is therefore clearly a discriminatory act based on its pro-Palestinian viewpoint.
Additionally, the letter states that the point of view expressed in the boycott “does not align with Pitzer's commitment to inclusion and respect for diverse viewpoints.” Yet, the amendment was passed after spirited debate in the Student Senate, a discussion that included vocal proponents and opponents of BDS. After this debate, the elected representatives of the Student Senate democratically endorsed Paragraph VI. This is a legislative embodiment of Pitzer’s community value of action, whereby students, “see [our core values] evidenced, hear them named, debate their integrity, and demand change on their behalf.” As representatives, the Student Senate has decided to take a principled stand in support of Palestinian human rights.
In the words of South African freedom fighter and vocal supporter of the BDS movement, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The decision of the Trustees in this situation legitimizes the heinous violations of international law of the Israeli state.
We call on the Pitzer College Board of Trustees to:
1) Respect the democratic decision of the Student Senate to amend the budget bylaws as stated above, and
2) Implement safeguards to ensure student autonomy in relation to all matters under the jurisdiction of the Pitzer Student Senate.
* See attached document detailing why we chose to include these companies in particular:
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