Monday, December 05, 2005

Going going back back to Israel Israel

I was notified via email of this petition to reinstate the U.C. study abroad program in Israel. The program was nixed in 2001 at the behest of the U.S. State Department, so students like me who wanted to study abroad in Israel had to take a leave of absence from the U.C., and transfering credits was a bit shady (but it was the best year of my life thus far). Since April 2005, the warning was changed and now only "urges U.S. citizens to carefully weigh the necessity of their travel to Israel."

Aaron Stone, of the Twelve Tribes Co-op, a veteran U.C. Santa Cruzer, had the following to say:

"The PetitionOnline is cute, but to do anything in the University beauracracy, you need to find out who's on which committee. In this case, you're looking at the Committee on the Education Abroad Program; there's one at each UC. Here at UCSC, these are the folks to talk to: http://senate.ucsc.edu/cmmtes/stcom0506.htm#CEAP.

"Putting your name on a web page to show solidarity is about 1/10,000 as effective as calling these people up and asking if/when they plan to reinstate the Israel programs, and if not, what their concerns are and actually working to allay those concerns. Cancelling a program is often a top-down decision (EAP, Journalism, Languages, etc.), but reinstating it has to be a grassroots effort to alter the formal recommendations of dozens of committees.

"Get involved with your College's Senate/Council/Parliament. Sit on a University committee. Become a representative to the SUA. Run for an SUA seat. Get to know the influential professors who aren't already out there talking about these issues and let them know how you feel."

And Tammi Benjamin, seasoned Israel supporter and professor at UCSC responded with the following:

"Aaron is right about how decisions are made at the university, and that for change to happen it must go through the proper channels of the university bureaucracy. I also agree with his suggestions for contacting influential professors and the members of the academic senate committee on the Education Abroad Program, and getting involved in the governance structure on campus. However, I still believe the petition is a good idea for the following reasons:

"1) The petition reaches beyond any one campus, which is important because while there is an EAP Committee on each UC campus, the EAP policy -- for instance the decision to suspend or reinstate the programin Israel -- is determined system-wide and not by any single campus.

"2) The number of signatures gives an indication of how much support there is to reinstate the program. A petition with thousands of names and comments from students, professors, parents and California taxpayers, is a great supporting document when speaking with the individuals responsible for making decisions about the UC Israel abroad program.

"3) The petition raises awareness about this issue not just on UC campuses, but in the local communities as well. This is important because a grassroots effort to reinstate the Israel abroad program will be greatly strengthened by the efforts of a broad spectrum of people, both on and off campus. The petition can be useful in identifying individuals who can help."

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