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May 3, 2016 7:43 am

Vassar Alumnus Calls Defeat of BDS Resolution at College a ‘Watershed Moment’

avatar by Lea Speyer

Vassar College. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Vassar College. Photo: Wiki Commons.

The Thursday defeat of a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement resolution at Vassar College is a major turning point at a school known for its widespread anti-Israelism, a key figure in a Vassar alumni group told The Algemeiner on Monday.

Dr. Mark Banschick — who graduated from the university in 1978 and played a significant founding role in the Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF) organization — said, “The recent defeat of BDS resolutions in a student-wide referendum at Vassar may be a watershed moment at a school that still fails to acknowledge its anti-Israel bias. After all, Vassar’s the place where 39 professors publicly supported a boycott of Israel, and where, this past February, eight departments and programs sponsored a speaker who made reference to the notion that Israelis harvest Palestinian bodies for organs.”

As reported by The Algemeiner, in March, the Vassar Student Association (VSA) council passed a resolution endorsing the BDS movement. An amendment to the BDS resolution prohibiting the use of student funding from what it labeled various pro-Israel companies, including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, failed to pass.

Two days before the official vote, VSA’s Executive Board informed the student body in an email, “Student Activity Funds used to fund VSA may be taken out of the control of VSA should the BDS [amendment] be adopted…The Board of Trustees and senior level administration of the college have publically stated they do not approve of the BDS movement, and that they are concerned with potential legal consequences of using funds to support a boycott.”

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Both the resolution and amendment — part of a year-long joint effort by anti-Israel groups Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace — went up for a vote a second time on Thursday and were rejected. 

Banschick said the “pro-Israel voice has been silenced for years” at Vassar and “students have had enough of BDS” there. “At last, some faculty are speaking up against BDS rhetoric and Vassar students appear to be tiring of the BDS tactics of polarization and intimidation.” 

The defeat of the two BDS resolutions should serve as major encouragement to students everywhere who “may also be ready to fight for an academy free of intimidation,” Banschick said. “Because if at Vassar  — where the pro-Israel voice has been silenced for years —  students have had enough, that speaks well for what can happen elsewhere.”

Thursday’s BDS resolution was rejected in a close vote. According to a VSA campus-wide email, the resolution received 573 “no” votes and 503 “yes” votes. The BDS Amendment garnered 601 “no” votes and 475 “yes” votes.

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