May 20, 2019

Claremont Student Paper Banned from Attending Pitzer Israel Vote

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

An independent Claremont Colleges Consortium student newspaper has been banned from attending the March 14 Pitzer College Council Israel vote.

The Claremont Independent reported that Pitzer’s Media Office initially told the paper on March 13 that they could cover the March 14 Pitzer College Council vote on Pitzer’s study abroad program at the University Haifa in person; however, later in the day, the office told them that the paper was actually not allowed to attend the vote.

“[T]he Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) of [Pitzer] College has announced that it will restrict attendance at the March 14 College Council session to students, faculty, staff and student members of The Student Life (TSL) staff,” Pitzer spokesman Mark Bailey told the Independent in an email, adding that “no external media” was allowed to attend the vote.

The Independent notes that TSL “is funded by the student governments of the Claremont Colleges,” whereas the Independent is not. The Independent is registered as a student club.

Alec Sweet, editor-in-chief of the Independent, told the Journal in a statement via email, “I am appalled that Pitzer College is not allowing us to attend this event and is actively attempting to discourage us from reporting on it. I can wholeheartedly say that they won’t stop us. Not only is Pitzer voting on a measure that by any measure will restrict academic freedom, but they are also now trying to restrict the freedom of student press which has been critical toward the measure. I find it notable that the student run publication allowed to attend and report is funded from the Claremont Colleges student governments, one of which is the very same Pitzer student government which voted against a measure to condemn the initial faculty vote and whose members will be voting on the measure at the College Council.”

Sweet continued, “The issue at play here is extremely contentious; allowing only one viewpoint to cover the story is a significant blow to student press freedom on campus. This is a very important vote, both on campus and for the broader state of academic freedom especially as it relates toward the academic boycott against Israel. Attempting to suppress any student publication is wrong, but specifically targeting the campus publication which has been vocal in defending the Haifa study abroad program is reprehensible.”

Bailey forwarded the Journal a statement from FEC chair Claudia Strauss saying that the FEC wanted only “Pitzer faculty, staff, and current students, and that reporters be limited to the official 5C paper, TSL” due to “limited seating.”

The Independent criticized the efforts by Pitzer faculty to eliminate the college’s Israel study abroad program in a March 12 editorial as “a grave disservice to Pitzer students who will have to learn how to interact closely with those with opposing views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, especially those who wish to engage with political or diplomatic careers.”

“A boycott reduces a complex scenario to what would be remembered by students as a simple dichotomy of good and bad by denying students the ability to see the conflict first-hand and make judgements on their own,” the editorial argued. “In such a complex situation, it is childish to assume demonizing Israel and shifting total support to Palestine would do anything to resolve the situation; to expect the Jewish people—after thousands of years of persecution—to abandon their homeland is ludicrous.”

The Pitzer College Council also restricted the number of student senators allowed to vote on March 14.

This article has been updated.