Students at Pitzer College have proposed suspending the college’s direct enrollment study abroad program with the University of Haifa, At The Student Life, Ansley Washburn and Annabelle Ink report on one reaction.

[On] Wednesday, Feb. 28, TSL received a statement from Claremont McKenna College (CMC) Professor of Mathematics Lenny Fukshansky that expressed his and dozens of other faculty members’ opposition to the proposed suspension of the Haifa study abroad program and condemned the recent results of the Associated Students of Pomona College’s (ASPC) referendum.


The statement, titled “Promoting Learning, Rejecting Division: Claremont Faculty Against Academic Boycott,” had a total of 38 faculty member signatures. A majority of support came from CMC professors, representing 26 of the signatures. Following behind CMC, Scripps College had six signatures, Pitzer and Pomona College each contributed two and Keck Graduate Institute and Claremont Graduate University had one signature each. No one from Harvey Mudd College signed the statement.


Originally, the letter was drafted in collaboration between a small group of faculty members before being sent to colleagues whom Fukshansky said he knew personally and thought would be interested in signing it. In an interview with TSL, Fukshansky also noted that several individuals expressed support for the letter but ultimately refused to sign it for fear of backlash.


“There were a certain number of people who said that, while they do agree with the statement of the letter, they did not feel comfortable signing it because of, I guess, potential consequences,” Fukshansky said. “To me, it sounded like people are afraid of possible intimidation.”


The statement began by expressing some professors’ opposition to the suspension of the Haifa program, stating that the institution has a diverse array of students and viewpoints.


“The University of Haifa is among the most multicultural campuses in the world,” the statement read. “Its professors express a wide spectrum of opinion on Israel and Zionism. No college committed to promoting inquiry, dialogue and debate should refuse to send their students to the University of Haifa.”


The statement stood in support of President Gabrielle Starr’s Feb. 16 email to the Pomona community in which she opposed ASPC’s hosting of the referendum and suggested that targeting Israel could have antisemitic implications. Similarly, the Feb. 28 statement criticized the referendum’s focus on Israel, noting the historic vilification of Jewish people.


“As Pomona President Starr’s letter notes, branding Israel as the world’s only pariah state is troubling because of a long history of treating Jews as a singular threat to human progress and flourishing,” the statement read.


The statement also argued that, while “there is a spectrum of reasonable disagreement on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” recent calls to suspend the study abroad program at the University of Haifa and to cease academic and economic relations with Israeli institutions did not recognize this spectrum.


“[These initiatives] are part of the broader Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is opposed to any relations with Israel, its people, its institutions, and its supporters,” the statement read. “We fear that the intellectual retreat and calcification BDS encourages would make it harder for all of us to engage and understand both Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.”


In the interview, Fukshansky elaborated on his aversion to boycotts specifically.


“I am fairly pro-Israel in this situation and I know a number of people who also are,” he said. “For us, seeing boycott measures or calls for boycott measures feels very divisive. I can think of few things that are more illiberal than a boycott, because a boycott shuts down a conservation before it gets started.”