Earlier this month, the faculty of Pitzer College, a small, highly selective school outside of Los Angeles, passed a resolution in favor of the boycott, divest, and sanctions movement (BDS) and another one calling for an end to the college’s study-abroad program in Haifa. No resolutions were passed about similar programs in China, Rwanda, or other counties. In an open letter to Pitzer’s president, John Moscowitz recalls his days as a student there and the two teachers from whom he learned the most: the German Jewish political scientist Lucian Marquis and the Students for a Democratic Society activist Tom Hayden:
I was close to both, not just while [at Pitzer] but until the end of each of their lives. I would speak with each about my love of Israel, including with Tom as he was dying two years ago. . . . Hayden, much like Lucian Marquis, would become allergic to the kind of herd-like mentality that consumed Lucian’s mid-century Germany. It was one of the reasons the hard left eventually bore Hayden much ill will.
In any case, I strongly suspect both men, were they alive today, would share my deep disappointment. Both saw Pitzer as different from other colleges and universities: freer from dogma, more wedded to fairness, more inclined toward principle. Not perfect, but worthy of significant esteem. I learned the virtue of independent thinking from these two men. I’ve been grateful ever since.
This was the Pitzer that Lucian and Tom knew—indeed, the college I experienced and have since been proud to include on my résumé. No longer. The Pitzer faculty’s Haifa vote is illiberal—and betrays a knee-jerk animosity toward Israel as ignorant as it is disguised as principled. This is the kind of animus that often proves infectious, even dangerous, as it can turn individuals into crowds. It’s hardly what the Pitzer College I once knew was about. . . .
[T]he vote badly tarnishes the college—and leaves a foul wind in its wake that won’t easily dissipate.
Read more on Jewish Journal: https://jewishjournal.com/first-person/242709/open-letter-melvin-oliver-pitzer-college/