Monday, March 7, 2016

Vassar Student Association Passes BDS Resolution

Yesterday was a sad day for Vassar.

Last night, the 22-member VSA Council, which is Vassar's representative student government and which controls a budget of some $900,000, passed a resolution endorsing the BDS movement. The resolution passed by a vote of 15-7, despite repeated prior assurances to FTI from the administration that there was little chance of this happening. In connection with the BDS vote, the VSA took the following measures:

• Rejected, by a vote of 12-10, an amendment (which requires a 2/3 majority) to the VSA Constitution that would have denied reimbursement to Vassar student organizations for purchase of products such as Sabra Hummus and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream; and

• Rejected (by an overwhelming majority) a J Street resolution that expressed support for the two state solution and called for the creation of a VSA committee to educate students on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Procedurally, both J Street and SJP/JVP, who sponsored the BDS Resolution and Amendment, still may petition for referenda, which would take place during student elections. To place a referendum on the ballot for a resolution that has passed (i.e., the BDS resolution), a sponsoring organization must get the signatures of 5% of the student body. For a resolution that has failed (i.e., the J Street resolution and the SJP amendment), the sponsoring organization must get the signatures of 15% of the student body.
Many students opposed to BDS did not show up at the vote because they were afraid of the toxic atmosphere at the meeting. During the meeting, one member of the VSA Council talked about the antisemitism that surrounded the issue and another talked about how Jewish students on campus had been targeted as a result of the BDS campaign. As they spoke, pro-BDS students were laughing.

According to the Miscellany News Twitter feed, at the conclusion of the meeting, at least two members of the Council expressed dismay at the hateful and disrespectful atmosphere that prevailed in the room and during the debate leading up to the vote.

Regardless of any official statement released by the College, it is important to understand that Vassar is fully responsible for this outcome. FTI believes that this is the result of years of systematic bias in course presentation and in the classroom on the part of faculty members, supported by a stream of extremist anti-Israel lectures sponsored by student groups and faculty alike, such as the infamous Jasbir Puar lecture on February 3. A one-sided anti-Israel atmosphere where Jewish students supportive of Israel are cast as white oppressors and Palestinians as their non-white victims, and a failure to properly address anti-Semitic incidents on Vassar's campus, helped make yesterday possible.

Vassar will not tell the public the entire story. Although the administration has hailed the appearance of Bassem Eid on campus -- only a week before the vote -- as an example of diversity of opinions, they curiously omitted to point out that his appearance was not sponsored by a single academic department – not even the Jewish Studies program -- or by a single student group – not even the Jewish Students Union. Mr. Eid's appearance required intervention by Vassar's Administration, and was funded by Cappy's office alone.

FTI believes that the school has not gone nearly far enough in order to institute systemic changes necessary to reverse the growing trend of anti-Zionism and antisemitism at Vassar.