Columbia University’s student body passed a referendum last week recommending that the school “divest its stocks, funds and endowment from companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts towards Palestinians that, according to the student group Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), fall under the United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.”
Out of the eligible 4,511 Columbia College undergraduate voters, just 1,771 votes were cast in the referendum vote, or 39.3 percent, of the undergraduate population. The referendum passed with 1,081 students, or 61.04 percent, in favor, 485, or 27.39 percent, opposed and 205, or 11.58 percent, abstained, according to figures obtained by JNS.
In a statement on Tuesday, Columbia president Lee Bollinger reiterated his opposition to the BDS referendum, which in November the Columbia College Student Council voted in favor of holding.
Bollinger said that supporting the referendum “would contradict a long-held understanding that the 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 issue.”
“Furthermore, in my view, as I have expressed many times over the years, it 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,” he continued. “And, 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 noted that he remains “an unflinching proponent of robust debate over contested issues such as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” and that “such discussions and debates are part of the essential purpose of the university, and we should all welcome the critical thinking that so often emerges and leads to improvements in our world. But altering our endowment in order to advance the interests of one side is not among the paths we will take.”