Brown University Labor Organization approves BDS referendum

The school’s Hillel rabbi, Joshua Bolton, said that “anti-Israel activism at Brown is reflective of trends we are all familiar with from around the country.”

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner 

The Graduate Labor Organization (GLO) of Brown University on Tuesday announced the passage of a referendum calling on school officials to endorse the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, and give students “oversight of the university’s investments.”

In a Facebook post, GLO said “87 percent of voters called on the Brown Corporation to divest all stocks, funds, endowment and other monetary instruments from companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine.”

Ninety percent of voters in the referendum “called on Brown to establish a means of implementing financial transparency and student oversight of the university’s investments,” said the student labor union, which formed in 2020.

The school’s Hillel rabbi, Joshua Bolton, told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that “anti-Israel activism at Brown is reflective of trends we are all familiar with from around the country.”

“Brown RISD Hillel is on the record against BDS in all its forms,” he said. “We are forging a strong, diverse, and vital Jewish community on College Hill, one that enables students to grow in relation to the breadth of Jewish history, identity, and meaning — where students learn with and from one another, across commonality as well as difference.”

Brown University President Christina Paxson did not immediately return The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.

After rejecting a similar referendum approved by 27.5 percent of Brown’s undergraduates in April 2019, Paxson told the student-run Brown Daily Herald, “We don’t do this by popular vote … a referendum that garners the majority of whoever is voting is not the way that these types of issues are decided.”

“If the University starts taking political positions, we run the risk of undermining academic freedom on the campus,” she said. “If we say we’re the university that opposes Israel, how can we have scholarship and debate on what’s happening in the Middle East? … We want members of our community to do the research and do the thinking to become really informed citizens, so they develop their own convictions and act accordingly.”

Paxson also said that after she shared her administration’s decision to reject a boycott of Israel, she and others received “one of the most vile, antisemitic emails I’ve ever seen.”