A secret ballot of Columbia University students to determine whether the College Student Council would support BDS resulted in a vote of 17-20 in favor, but because a two-thirds majority is needed when the Council votes on controversial decisions, the motion was rejected.
A four-hour-long debate held on Sunday night in which the Council was faced with the decision of whether to support BDS or not, attended by 150 students who came to hear the exchange of opinions from both sides.
Speaking on behalf of the pro-Israeli camp stood students from Students Supporting Israel (SSI), their first time appearing at an official university event.
Aryeh: Columbia Students Association for Israel, which is the Hillel-recognized pro-Israel group on campus, also fought greatly on Israel’s behalf – presenting a pro-Israeli position at the debate and shouldering the majority of the organization of the discussion.
Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine and Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace also spoke during the debate. Only 19 students were allowed to be present in the room, although it was also broadcast via a live-stream.
The debate was emotional, reported Emma Buzbee for The Columbia Spectator, with some students weeping and two council members threatening to quit their positions.
SSI President Ofir Dayan said that “Not only did SSI present, but we won, justice won.”
Columbia student Sarah Senkfor said that the debate around BDS and Israel made her feel that it’s unsafe to openly identify herself as a Jewish-American.
“I did not feel safe walking around wearing my Jewish star,” she said, “like I had for the past 2.5 years.”
Columbia students currently have no way of knowing in which companies the university invests its endowment, the Spectator said, as such information is withheld from the public.
The final announcement of the vote left pro-Israel students relieved, while pro-Palestinian students gathered outside the room, chanting slogans about a future time in which “Palestine will be free.”
According to the SSI’s Facebook page, they were able to thwart pro-BDS bills presented to student governments in San Diego State, UCSB and Illinois Urbana.