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April 26, 2021 4:10 pm
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Pomona College Student Government Passes BDS Bill Calling to Strip Funds From Student Clubs

avatar by Jordan Esrig

Pomona College. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), voted unanimously Thursday to pass a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution that calls for the student union to stop funding student clubs engaging with companies that “support the Israeli occupation of Palestine or contributes to any companies” on a United Nations list that includes major Israeli and American companies. 

According to the Claremont Independent, “Student clubs that fail to divest from the listed companies will face the loss of ASPC funding.” The bill’s stated end goal is to force student clubs to enact the boycott as well, and it draws on a UN list, drafted by the UN Human Rights Council, that includes most major Israeli companies as well as American companies such as Trip Advisor, Airbnb, Expedia, Delta, and Booking.com. It puts Jewish organizations at Pomona such as Hillel and Chabad at risk of losing funding from Pomona College’s student government. 

The bill, which was submitted by Claremont Colleges Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Claremont Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) last week, was lauded by SJP on Instagram, as an “historic BDS victory.” The group thanked members of ASPC for “standing up against our colleges’ complicity in supporting companies and organizations that serve to benefit from continued violence on behalf of the state of Israel,” and promised to pressure the other Claremont Colleges Student Government associations to follow suit.

The goal of the resolution, according to the student government resolution that SJP submitted, is “a Consortium-wide agreement to ban clubs from using student government allocations to invest in or purchase goods from companies that contribute to … the Israeli state.” 

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Pomona College is a highly selective liberal arts college in Southern California and a member of the Claremont College consortium along with Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Scripps, and Pitzer colleges.

Jewish organizations have already refused to comply with the boycott. In a statement slamming the bill, the President of Claremont’s Progressive Israel alliance Janie Marcus said that the organization would not comply with the “discriminatory” resolution. 

“ASPC has institutionalized a campus-wide ban on the free exchange and purchase of goods and services,” Marcus said. “Moreover, ASPC has particularized and singled out a specific demographic for its discriminatory policy. Not only does this resolution hinder the general student population’s ability to make buying choices of their own volition, but it also sets its eyes on penalizing a particular constituency of students and student groups that provide space for Jewish and Israeli students.”

In response to the bill’s passing, Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr released a statement urging “ASPC to discuss this in greater depth, allowing for opposing voices to make their case, so that our student governance can be inclusive and representative of all members of the community.”

“This vote was held without representation from any student opposition,” Starr said. “The independence of student government in passing its resolutions is important, but so is the representation of the student body as a whole and given the lack of debate and the passions this vote may stir, we want to convey our deep concern.”

Starr also criticized the bill’s goal of enacting a requirement for student clubs to boycott Israel as “deeply concerning,” and implored ASPC to “reverse course.”

On Friday, Pomona students started a petition calling on Starr to directly reject the resolution’s “anti-Israel discrimination.” It cited her public condemnation of antisemitism in July 2020, after the school’s senior class president was revealed to have shared an antisemitic social media message.

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