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Victory Over BDS at Pitzer

Edward Kunz, Brandeis Blog

June 19, 2017

Today, the Pitzer College Trustees announced that they had rescinded the recent BDS amendment passed by the Pitzer Student Senate. The initial amendment was made to the Student Senate’s Budget Committee Bylaws. The changes, introduced in April, included a new paragraph (Paragraph IV) within Article III (student Activities Funds) which prohibited 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.” This was followed by a list of corporations that would be affected by this change, comprised of the following companies: Caterpillar, SodaStream, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, Hewlett-Packard, and Sabra.

Pitzer announced, following efforts by Hillel, the Academic Engagement Network, and various other organizations, that the board had decided to “rescind Paragraph IV and declare it to be of no effect.” Pointing to the complicated nature surrounding questions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pitzer stated that “[the 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.” The letter from Pitzer goes on to state that it had not once in 54 years had to intervene in this regard, and that they felt they had to intervene due to the fact that this decision “[did] not align with Pitzer’s commitment to inclusion and respect for diverse viewpoints.”

The vote that saw this BDS amendment pass, where Jewish students reported feeling ambushed due to the fact the it was held over Passover, is indicative of the similar vote taken this April at Tufts, a vote which also led to the adoption of a BDS resolution. With the quick action taken by Pitzer, in direct response to the outcry from the American Jewish community, a message has been sent to Tufts and other campuses that have adopted other over-reaching and misguided BDS resolutions, BDS will not be allowed to dominate campus life and organizations on these campuses.

BDS is also on the retreat in academic associations in the United States, with the Modern Language Association overwhelmingly adopting an anti-BDS motion this month, and the lawsuit against the Academic Studies Association allowed to continue after a Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the ASA professors in four out of six claims, authorizing the case to move forward to discovery. With push back against BDS in all of its main areas of attack, as well as over twenty-one US states having passed their own anti-BDS legislation, it is only a matter of time before BDS finds no home in the United States, whether on or off campus.

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Adam S. Feuerstein
Adam S. Feuerstein is a Principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law. His practice encompasses a broad range of transactional and tax planning matters.
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