The student government at Barnard College has voted to defy the school’s president and begin the process of formally requesting that the school divest from eight companies that do business in Israel, the Columbia Spectator reported Tuesday.
Student delegates voted in their internal meeting on Monday to begin crafting a letter to college president Sian Beilock, before voting again next Monday on whether to send it to her.
Students at Barnard, one of the most heavily Jewish schools in the country, voted 64%-36% last week to request that Barnard’s Student Government Association call on the school’s board of trustees to divest from companies that sponsors of the referendum claim violate international law through their treatment of the Palestinians.
But Beilock wrote an email to the SGA hours before they were set to debate the issue, informing them that the schools would not divest. The move infuriated both pro-Palestinian campus activists and the student government itself, which felt that its authority had been undermined.
“Beilock totally overrode the democratic process due to pressures or external things that we cannot and do not know about, and now we’re only left to guess, and it sucks,” student Lili Brown, a senior affiliated with referendum sponsor Jewish Voice for Peace, told the Forward on Tuesday, before the secret SGA vote had been reported.
No university has ever divested from Israel or companies that do business there in response to student activism. Many university presidents have written statements explaining their reasoning that were similar to Beilock’s — refusing to divest because doing so does not relate to the school’s academic mission or have the full consensus of the university community.
Barnard students hoped that their school would be an exception, noting that the college had already agreed to divest from companies that deny climate change science in response to student activism.
But divesting in response to the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel could cause the college to lose New York state funding because of a 2016 executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.