The student government of Williams College in Massachusetts voted last month not to recognize a pro-Israel club as an official student organization - the first time in more than ten years that a club complied with all relevant bylaws but failed to gain recognition status, The Williams Record reported.
The Williams College Council voted 13-8 not to recognize Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) - and in a break from normal procedure, they conducted their vote by secret ballot and did not publish a livestream or attach speakers’ names to statements in the official minutes.
WIFI’s mission, according to its constitution, is to “support Israel and the pro-Israel campus community, as well as to educate the College on issues concerning Israel and the Middle East,” as well as hold cultural events and celebrations of Jewish and Israeli holidays.
Most students who attended the council hearings were opposed to WIFI’s recognition, the Record reported. “Generally speaking, [Israel is] a state involved in an active conflict that is one of the really vile and problematic conflicts on the planet right now,” student Mohazzab Abdullah told the Record. “Regardless of what angle you approach it from, I think almost everyone will agree that massive abuses are happening, and I think that you need sort of a special consideration and debate when it comes to voting for RSOs that affiliate themselves with a state involved in such a conflict.”
College president Maud Mandel said in a statement on Friday that she was “disappointed” in the council’s decision, which was seemingly “made on political grounds” and thus in violation of its bylaws. She pointed out that WIFI can still operate and have access to many college services without council recognition.
WIFI leader Molly Berenbaum pledged that her group would continue to be active. “There are two holidays coming up … which are Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day, so we’re also planning an event to mark those days,” she told the Record. “We’re definitely not going to just dissolve away and disappear.”
Around 225 of Williams College’s 2,000 undergraduate students are Jewish, according to the Forward College Guide.