Barnard President Rejects Divestment Referendum Targeting Israel
Barnard College in New York will not withdraw any holdings from companies doing business with Israel, the school’s president said on Monday, following the passage of a student divestment resolution last week.
In an email sent to the Student Government Association and forwarded to the entire campus community, President Sian Leah Beilock indicated that “Barnard will not take action in response to this referendum,” which targeted eight companies that “profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.”
The measure fails to meet the “two exacting standards” necessary to be considered by the Board of Trustees, she explained.
“First, taking an institutional stand amid the complexities of the Mideast conflict would risk chilling campus discourse on a set of issues that members of our community should be able to discuss and debate freely,” Beilock wrote. “Choosing a side therefore would be inconsistent with our mission.”
“Second, there is clearly not consensus across the Barnard community on whether or how to address the issue,” she noted, pointing out that while the referendum was supported by a majority of students who voted, they represented “less than 30% of Barnard’s student body.”
“Thousands of alumnae have also voiced their opposition to the referendum,” Beilock added, in reference to a petition signed by over 2,000 of the school’s graduates, which denounced the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
To date, no American university has agreed to divest holdings from companies doing business in Israel in response to student petitions.
Beilock’s announcement was praised by Columbia University’s branch of Students Supporting Israel, which congratulated “the Barnard administration for choosing to foster dialogue and tolerance instead of boycotts and hate.”
“We are proud to see that Barnard’s Administration not only rejected this referendum,” the group told The Algemeiner, “but courageously and insightfully saw through the BDS facade and called them out for what they truly do: incite fear and hate, prevent discourse, and distort and simplify the complexity of the Middle East conflict.”
On Saturday, hundreds of Barnard students received a spam email titled, “ISRAEL DID 9/11,” which accused “Israel, Zionist Jews & American Traitors” of perpetrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks and said the “9/11 Commission Report is a 571-Page Zionist Lie.”
In a follow-up email, the university’s IT service desk advised students to delete the messages, saying the accounts that were used to send them were suspended while related addresses were being blocked.