Barnard College Passes Student Referendum for Divestment in Vote of 90.99%

After a week of voting being open for the SGA Elections, Barnard students passed the referendum for Columbia and Barnard to divest from Israel at an even higher margin than Columbia College.

On April 29th at 6:00 pm, Barnard’s Student Government Association (SGA) announced that the student body has voted in favor of all three referendum questions focused on divesting from “companies and academic institutions that profit from or engage in the State of Israeli apartheid.” This includes divesting from companies profiting off or engaging with Israel, the cancellation of the Tel Aviv Global Center, and ceasing the Dual Degree program with Tel Aviv University.

An unprecedented number of students cast votes in this contentious referendum between Monday April 22nd and noon today, with 1676 voters, 55% of Barnard’s voting population, participating. 

90.99% voted in favor of divestment from the Israeli economy, with 1.9% abstaining and 7.1% voting against divestment. 85.26% voted in favor of canceling the Tel Aviv Global Center, with 5.6% abstaining and 9.12% voting against cancellation. 82.45% voted to cease the dual degree program with Tel Aviv University, with 6.74% abstaining and 10.79% voting no.

Barnard is one of several colleges under the University which has or will have a divestment referendum. Just earlier this week, Columbia College voted in favor of these three same proposals.

The percentage of voters in favor of divestment in the Barnard referendum is significantly higher than that of the Columbia College vote results released last week, where 76.55% of the voting students favored divestment and 40.26% of the entire voting population participated.

The three referendum questions were proposed by Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a group focused on divestment from Israel which is part of the coalition of groups organizing the current “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.” 

In early March, Columbia’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing rejected CUAD’s divestment proposal on the basis of lack of broad consensus. This referendum was then proposed to and accepted by Barnard’s SGA to illustrate student interest and support across campus.

This is not the first SGA referendum at Barnard in favor of divestment from Israel. In 2018, 64.3% of participating students voted in favor of divestment from companies that “profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians,” as stated by SGA at the time. This recent vote is 25% higher than the vote six years ago, with a 5% rise in participation overall.

Despite Barnard and Columbia students overwhelmingly calling for divestment along with other demands, Columbia President Minouche Shafik released an announcement this morning via email stating that “the University will not divest from Israel.” As with the 2018 referendum, it is unclear what the next step is for the College, as vote results do not have a direct or immediate impact on College policies or procedures. 

In conjunction with the recent Barnard AAUP vote of “no confidence” in President Laura Rosenbury, this student vote suggests that the majority of the Barnard community disapproves of the decisions made by President Shafik, President Rosenbury, and the Columbia and Barnard Boards of Trustees, both with recent events and past actions.