Columbia president promptly shuts down student-passed Israel BDS referendum

The university president released a statement saying he does not support the referendum and will not change investment policies.

Columbia University’s student government passed a Israel Boycott, Divest, and Sanction referendum.

Columbia University’s student government passed a referendum to boycott and divest from companies that “profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts towards Palestinians.” 

Columbia students received the news in an email on Tuesday, with just over 60 percent of the student body voting in favor.

In a statement on the school’s website, however, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger responded by saying he does not support the referendum. Bollinger noted that the school will not alter its endowment "to advance the interests of one side."

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"...[T]he University should not change its investment policies on the basis of particular views about a complex policy issue, especially when there is no consensus across the University community about that is unfair and inaccurate to single out this specific dispute for this purpose when there are so many other, comparably deeply entrenched conflicts around the world," Bollinger wrote.

"Finally, I have also raised concerns about how this debate over BDS has adversely affected the campus climate for many undergraduate students in our community," Bollinger added.

Bollinger condemned this proposal for divestment earlier in 2020, as the referendum was originally proposed in November.

Vice President of Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University Romy Ronen told Campus Reform that the groups that were pushing for this knew Bollinger condemned it from the beginning and feels those groups' intention was only “to divide” and “be hateful.” 

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Ronen also criticized the wording of the referendum as “already inherently bias” for referring to Israel as an “apartheid” state. 

“I’m very hurt because this is very clearly a symbolic loss, and we are being bullied and told not to victimize ourselves, but at the end of the day, they are not educated and do not know what Israel is about,” said Ronen. 

“This whole debacle was just to mess with Jewish students in order for them to not feel safe," Ronen added.

Campus Reform reached out to the Columbia University Apartheid Divest, the group that petitioned to put the BDS referendum on the student ballot,  but did not hear back in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JezzamineWolk