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Pratt Institute Faculty Narrowly Rejects Resolutions to Boycott Israel

Pratt Institute’s faculty governing body recently faced a significant decision regarding whether or not to boycott Israel. The vote, initially scheduled to occur on the first day of Passover, was rescheduled due to accusations of discrimination from the Brandeis Legal Center for Human Rights Under Law. The center argued that observant Jewish professors would be unable to participate on the holiday, raising concerns about fairness and inclusivity.

During the vote, several resolutions were brought forward for consideration. One of these resolutions called for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, while another suggested that Pratt should discontinue any involvement with events, activities, agreements, or projects related to Israel, its lobby groups, or its cultural institutions. Both of these resolutions were ultimately rejected by a narrow margin of 14 to 12.

A third resolution sought to suspend Pratt’s partnership with Bazel University, Israel’s national school for art and design. This resolution garnered even less support, receiving only 11 votes in favor of suspension. However, amidst these rejections, the faculty council did pass a resolution with a more significant majority of 20 to 6. This resolution requested that Pratt provide full transparency regarding its institutional investments in Israeli companies or companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It also called for the institute to prepare for divestment from these holdings if any were found.

The rejection of the anti-Israel resolutions was met with praise from the Brandeis Legal Center. Rory Lancman, a senior counsel at the center and former New York City councilman, commended Pratt’s Jewish students, faculty, and staff for standing up for their rights and defeating what he described as an anti-Semitic Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) resolution. Lancman further argued that BDS resolutions are not only anti-Semitic but also likely violate various anti-discrimination and anti-BDS laws and regulations.

In response to the vote, Pratt’s academic senate released a statement expressing gratitude to the professors for engaging in the debate with integrity and good faith. The statement emphasized the importance of academic freedom and the need for respectful dialogue, even among those who hold differing opinions. It acknowledged the difficulty of such conversations but affirmed the institute’s commitment to fostering an environment where diverse perspectives can be shared and discussed.

It is worth noting that this vote took place against the backdrop of recent arrests of rioters who vandalized property and occupied or established encampments at several universities, including Columbia University, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and New York University. These incidents reflect the heightened tensions surrounding issues related to Israel and Palestine on college campuses nationwide.

In conclusion, Pratt Institute’s faculty governing body grappled with whether or not to boycott Israel. Despite the rescheduling of the vote due to accusations of discrimination, the resolutions calling for a boycott were ultimately rejected. Pratt instead passed a resolution demanding transparency regarding institutional investments related to Israel and preparing for potential divestment. This decision was applauded by the Brandeis Legal Center, which argued that BDS resolutions are anti-Semitic and likely violate various laws and regulations. The faculty council’s rejection of the boycott resolutions highlights the importance of open dialogue and academic freedom in addressing complex and contentious issues.

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