GW refuses to implement BDS resolution passed by secret vote

The president of George Washington University has flatly refused to take action on a resolution passed by student government this week calling on the university to divest from companies that do business with Israel.

At the same meeting, student senators declined to censure a colleague accused of anti-Semitism for a recently-uncovered Facebook post calling on students to boycott an event because it was sponsored by Jewish organizations.

George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc says he will not consider implementing a divestment resolution passed by the student government in a secret vote.

The resolution, which was voted on anonymously, passed Monday evening by a vote of 18 to 6, with six student senators abstaining. 

Monday’s meeting was the Student Association’s second attempt to hold a vote on the resolution. The previous vote was cancelled due to a lack of security, whereupon supporters of the BDS bill responded by taking over the student government offices and demanding the vote be rescheduled for the following week. 

[RELATED: Pro-Palestine students hold sit-in after BDS vote cancelled]

The resolution accuses Israel of being an apartheid state while claiming that the university is profiting from the violation of international law by investing in companies such as Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and Caterpillar.

Notably, though, the only evidence the resolution offers to indicate that GW actually has investments in any of those companies relies entirely on supposition.

According to the document, GW’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter sent an “electronic letter” to former GW President Steven Knapp in March of 2017 asking whether the school has investments in any of the companies that SJP has accused of complicity in human rights abuses, telling him that failure to respond within 12 days would be taken as indication that GW is invested in those companies.

[RELATED: BDS resolution narrowly rejected at GW]

Following the vote to approve the resolution, Divest This Time at GW declared victory in a Facebook post, claiming to have “engaged in deep discussion with students on campus” regarding the issue and to have “elevated the voices of Palestinian students.” 

In a separate statement, the organization praised the unknown student representatives who voted for the resolution, saying, “with today’s yes vote, the Student Association will be the voice of encouragement and the voice to lead effective conversations with administration in regards to the treatment of Palestinians on campus. We would like to thank the Student Association for standing on the right side of history, and standing up for Palestinian human rights.”

LeBlanc, however, immediately shot down the proposal in a brief statement released the following day, even going so far as to disavow any institutional support for the BDS proposal.

“Last night, the university’s student senate passed a resolution calling for divestment from certain companies because they do business with Israel,” he wrote. “While I support the student senate’s right to express their views in the form of a resolution, I want to be clear to our university community that this does not represent the university’s views and the university will not implement such a proposal.” 

Notably, during the same meeting at which it approved the BDS resolution, the Student Association also declined to censure a student senator facing accusations of anti-Semitism. 

[RELATED: Anti-Semitic post comes back to haunt GW student gov candidate]

The senator, Brady Forrest, lost his bid for executive vice president of the Student Association after an old Facebook post resurfaced in which he called for students to boycott an event sponsored by Jewish student organizations.

The Jewish Student Association released a statement saying that “by failing to censure or remove this senator, [the student senators] failed as representatives of Jewish students and as leaders on a campus that should foster a joyous multicultural community.”

GW for Israel President Tali Edid also criticized the Student Association for approving the BDS resolution while failing to censure Forrest, saying the outcome of Monday’s meeting is indicative of growing hostility toward Jewish students on campus.

“In my experience with GW for Israel, we are seeing the toxic normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric,” she told Campus Reform

“As anti-Israel rhetoric gets more attention, their voices get louder, and their opinions seem to be acceptable. Because if they can be so loud and not experience repercussions for their words and actions, what can they be doing wrong?” Edid elaborated. “In reality, they are doing a lot wrong, and the Student Association has only proven to be doing worst.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @abigailmarone