OPINION: The Pitzer Board Of Trustees Must Respect Student Voices

Editors’ Note: TSL accepts opinions articles and letters to the editor written by members of the Claremont Colleges. While we ordinarily ask that all letters and articles be signed by their writers, we make exceptions for extraordinary circumstances including the jeopardy of student safety. In this case, there was concern that publishing the names of the students involved in writing the piece would lead to their personal information being published by Canary Mission and their being banned from entering Israel. If you would like to submit an article or letter to the editor, please email editor@tsl.news.

Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) launched a petition Feb. 7 demanding that the Board of Trustees respect the majority opinion of the Pitzer Student Senate, which voted on May 1, 2017 overwhelmingly in support of an amendment prohibiting the use of Student Activities Funds toward corporations that profit from human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

Students at Pitzer College believe that our school should not contribute to human suffering, and that Palestinians — like all people — are entitled to their basic rights. Despite such enthusiastic support, the Board of Trustees decided to rescind the amendment, breaking Pitzer's 54-year history of “Student Senate autonomy over the funds allocated to it by the College.”

Tellingly, the Board of Trustees made this unilateral decision during summer break, when students were not present to engage with them and form a democratic response. The board's blatant disavowal of student democracy is inexcusable. While the board is not democratically elected, it holds immense power over the college’s decisions. Still, we are undeterred by their attempt to repress student voices and remain committed to a more transparent, socially-responsible college.
The Pitzer student body is not alone. Dozens of campuses across the country have voted to cut ties with corporations complicit in Israel's illegal 50-year occupation of Palestinian land. Inspired by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, our campaign outlined five corporations that profit from the oppression of Palestinians, who are denied basic freedoms, such as the right to vote, as well as travel freely to school, work, and home.
One Palestinian affected by this daily oppression is Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian teenager imprisoned by Israel for her unarmed protest. After the the Israeli army shot her 15-year old cousin in the face, Tamimi confronted a soldier. For that small act of resistance, she was taken from her home at 3 a.m., awakened by soldiers screaming and banging at the door, also throwing her mother to the ground.
While Tamimi is just one of 300 children currently imprisoned by Israel, her case has garnered global support. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, celebrities and civil rights icons have called for her release. Several of these prominent figures have also backed groundbreaking legislation introduced by U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum to prevent the use of U.S. tax dollars toward the Israeli military's arrest and abuse of Palestinian children.  

Growing up under occupation, Tamimi has been keenly aware of the oppression around her, always remaining committed to her dream for a better world: “I dream Palestine will have freedom with no checkpoints. I will not see the settlements in front of me. I will not have to worry about my family being killed or taken to jail.”

Every Friday, Tamimi’s village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank comes together to make this shared dream a reality by protesting the confiscation of their land and water resources. But this story of struggle is just one of many in Palestine.

These injustices are not new, and they only continue to be possible because of international support, inaction, and corporations that profit from Palestinian oppression. As it stands, Pitzer is not neutral.

We are already invested in corporations that contribute to violence and oppression. It’s time that we do the right thing and divest. We students made the right choice last year; now, it’s up to us to make sure the Board of Trustees listens.

Students must take a stand to show that we will not be deterred just because our actions do not fit into the interests of the Trustees. We encourage everyone to sign our petition and join us in this growing, thriving movement for Palestinian freedom.  

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