Two days ago Columbia College undergraduates voted overwhelmingly to divest from companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts towards Palestinians under “apartheid” law. The university’s president Lee Bollinger promptly repudiated the vote saying it was a “complex” issue on which no campus consensus exists.
Speaking to the Arab Center Wednesday, Columbia history professor Rashid Khalidi said the vote, in a city that has the largest Jewish population in the world, was a remarkable sign of change. I called Khalidi, who is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, to elaborate.
Rashid Khalidi: I think we are seeing something really quite remarkable, at least on college campuses. There was a similar vote at Barnard College in 2018 and another recently at University of Illinois [Urbana-Champaign]. Let’s look at the Columbia students’ vote. The final count was:
Yes – 1081 (61.0%)
No – 485 (27.4%)
Abstain – 205 (11.6%)
So that was a resounding majority in a vote that represents– 1771– nearly 40% of the students at Columbia College. This is not some meager turnout. [Enrollment was 4675 in 2019, per Columbia’s own numbers.]