The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praised the Pitzer College Board of Trustees for rescinding a Student Senate amendment that, if implemented, would have rendered Pitzer College the first campus in North America to carry out a boycott against Israel.
Passed in April, the Student Senate’s amendment would have prohibited the use of Student Activities Funds for “payments on goods or services” from certain “corporations and organizations associated with the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories” – itself a falsehood since Israel is not illegally occupying any Arab territories and Israel has a greater legal, religious, political and historic claim to Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. Student Activities Funds come from mandatory fees imposed on all students, to support extracurricular activities.
On June 16, 2017, the Board of Trustees invalidated the Student Senate amendment and provided the basis for its decision:
“Student Activities Funds are derived from mandatory fees the College levies on all students. Consequently, the Board expects the Student Senate to remain neutral in determining the organizations it recognizes and funds, the amount of funding allocated to each organization, and any restrictions imposed on such funds.”
The Board reasoned that the amendment was invalid because it “applies a particular point of view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in restricting the use of Student Activities Funds by all Student Senate-approved student groups.” It thus “inappropriately curtails the funds usage rights of all such groups, including those that may have a different perspective.”
This was precisely the argument the ZOA made to Pitzer College in urging that the amendment be rescinded. In a May 5, 2017 letter to Pitzer, the ZOA emphasized that the Trustees had a legal imperative to rescind the amendment: In 2000, the Supreme Court decided (in Board of Regents v. Southworth) that when universities impose mandatory student activities fees like Pitzer’s, the fees have to be allocated in a viewpoint neutral basis to comply with the First Amendment. Even though Pitzer is a private institution, the ZOA noted that the College represents itself as upholding the First Amendment. It would thus likely be held to the same standards and obligations under the Constitution as a public university. Preventing Pitzer student fees from being allocated in a way that supports Israel, as the Student Senate intended, would violate the viewpoint neutrality requirement mandated by the Supreme Court.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, praised Pitzer College’s Board of Trustees for rescinding the Student Senate’s anti-Israel boycott amendment, stating: “We commend Pitzer’s Board of Trustees for reaching the right result under the law and for the good of the campus. The Board rejected the Student Senate’s divisive and anti-Semitic tactics that help create a hostile campus climate for Jewish and pro-Israel students. And the Board affirmed the College’s important values of inclusiveness and respect for diverse points of view.”