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October 8, 2020 3:38 pm

Columbia University Faculty Members Issue Open Letter of Support for President After He Denounces Pro-BDS Referendum

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Columbia University. Photo: Alex Proimos.

Faculty members at Columbia University have issued an open letter supporting the school’s president for opposing a pro-BDS referendum approved by undergraduate students at the New York City institution.

In a statement released after Columbia College’s student government demanded the school divest from companies that “profit from the State of Israel’s apartheid system and military occupation,” President Lee Bollinger said that doing so “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 added.

In an apparent reference to the problem of campus antisemitism, Bollinger said, “I have also raised concerns about how this debate over BDS has adversely affected the campus climate for many undergraduate students in our community.”

In the open letter, published last week, the faculty signatories said they “stand with President Bollinger in opposing this referendum.”

“The BDS referendum and its recommendation that the University should divest from a number of international companies that do business in Israel is unwise, analytically flawed, and violates a sense of fairness and proportionality,” they noted.

They also pointed to the antisemitic nature of such initiatives, saying, “We are concerned that this resolution will adversely affect the campus climate for many Jewish students who support Israel.”

“We stand ready to work with President Bollinger and others in the Columbia senior leadership to improve the campus climate for all students, including Jewish students,” they added. “We encourage President Bollinger to implement a remedial action plan for the campus, with concrete and measurable goals.”

Judea Pearl, a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, endorsed the petition, but urged Bollinger to address “the root problem — Zionophobia — to restore civility on moral grounds.”

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