campus beat

Columbia student council postpones BDS referendum due to coronavirus

The vote has been rescheduled for the fall semester, when classes are expected to resume

InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr

Columbia University

A BDS referendum at Columbia University originally slated for this month has been postponed until the fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Background: The decision to hold a spring referendum was determined during a November student government vote, after the motion failed to garner enough support in the spring of 2019. The referendum was to be held at the same time as broader student government elections, originally scheduled for April 4-8. The university switched to remote learning on March 11, leaving the school’s student council elections up in the air as administrators and students made arrangements to leave the campus, which is in the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.

Executive decision: The decision to postpone the referendum was announced late last week. In a statement released Friday, the Columbia Elections Commission and the Columbia College Student Council Executive Board said that holding the referendum while the campus is empty would deprive students of the opportunity to engage in discussions about BDS in the lead-up to the vote.

Why it matters: Pro-Israel and anti-Israel students at Columbia have clashed for years, but the referendum marks the first time BDS was to be put to a campus-wide vote. Students graduating this spring will not be eligible to vote in the fall referendum, while incoming freshmen will be casting their ballots after a short time on campus.

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