Wednesday, May 4, 2016

BDS Fails in Campus-Wide Referendum!

The resolution endorsing BDS, which had been adopted by the Vassar Student Association (VSA) Council on March 6, was rejected in a campus-wide referendum last week. Voting began on April 26th and ended at noon on the 28th. Additionally, a proposed amendment to the VSA by-laws that would have forbidden reimbursement to student groups for purchases of products from companies deemed “complicit” with Israel, was defeated in a separate referendum vote. (The amendment had been voted on by the VSA along with the BDS resolution but had failed to achieve the 2/3 majority needed for adoption.)

After the VSA vote, the pro-BDS resolution and the amendment were submitted to the student body. Fewer than half the students actually voted. The tally is as follows:



Resolution Approving






Thus, in net numbers, only about 25% of the entire student body of over 2,000 supported either the BDS referendum or the amendment, despite what we were told was a virtually non-stop campaign by the student organizations promoting BDS (Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace).

The campaign for the referendum vote appears to have galvanized pro-Israel students to at last openly engage with the hostile atmosphere at Vassar. Students for Open Dialogue, a new campus civility group that rejects BDS and that has the support of campus administrators, and J Street U were among the student organizations that spoke out openly against the resolution and amendment. FTI’s work can also surely be credited for helping the college administration understand the threat of BDS. Before the VSA vote in March, the President’s office had advised student representatives that the College would consider suspending VSA funding if the VSA Council voted for the amendment prohibiting reimbursement. Between the March 6th VSA vote and the referendum, the administration had also helped to arrange appearances by more diverse voices on campus, including Ari Shavit, Bassem Eid and Peter Beinart, all of whom opposed BDS in their presentations.