Students at the University of Haifa (illustrative)
Students at the University of Haifa (illustrative)Flash 90

First the president of Pitzer College showed his distaste for an academic boycott of Israel with a historic vote. Then he showed up in person to reiterate how he felt.

Melvin Oliver came to a meeting Tuesday of the University of Haifa board of governors two months after he vetoed a nonbinding recommendation passed by the Pitzer College Council to suspend the study abroad program at the university in northern Israel.

Oliver’s veto was the first in the Southern California school’s 56-year history, the Claremont Independent student newspaper reported.

“Academic boycotts of any nation set us on a path of breaking the free exchange of ideas,” Oliver said in Haifa. “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.”

He added: “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.”

The Pitzer council, which is made up of students and faculty, passed the recommendation in mid-March in a 68-25 vote with eight abstentions. Proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel spearheaded the measure.