As documented before, Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, has faced a waive of anti-Israel, and in some cases anti-Semitic, activity on campus for the past two years centered around the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The latest spark is a combined effort by Vassar Students for Justice in Palestine and Vassar Jewish Voice for Peace, to pass an anti-Israel divestment resolution targeting companies, including Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, that supposedly contribute to the oppression of Palestinians.

The controversy has put a lot of pressure not just on the Vassar administration, but also the Vassar Student Association, which is considering the BDS resolution for a March 6 vote.

The Miscellany News, the student newspaper, reports that the students on VSA just voted to take the BDS vote in secret:

On Feb. 22, the VSA voted on how the ballots would be cast for the March 6 vote determining the adoption of Stu­dents for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) BDS proposal. They decided by a vote of 16 to three with three abstentions to have an anonymous vote. To pass, the anon­ymous vote required 2/3 of the council’s vote, as it required the suspension of a current VSA bylaw.

“It’s been expressed by members of council and members of the student community and members of the United States that there’s a perception that vot­ing for either side on the BDS resolution could have implications on one’s life out­side of the context of Vassar College and the BDS resolution,” said VP for Student Life Chris Brown ’16. Other VSA Coun­cil members made similar comments during meetings on Feb. 14 and Feb. 21, including VP for Finance Kaden Magu­ire and the Presidents of Class of 2018 and 2019 Presidents Rebecca Pober ‘18 and Miranda Amey ’19. VSA members questioned why VSA Council representatives should be accountable for their votes on an issue that is perceived as unrelated to their livelihoods. Brown continued, “Despite us being elected as student representatives—which I acknowledge is our job—I don’t think that it’s fair for those implications or perceived implications to be hav­ing any true effect on the lived experiences of members of VSA Council. Because despite what people believe, we’re human beings first, we’re students second, and we’re VSA representatives third.”

While the Miscellany News article presents the fear of post-college repercussions for voting in favor, one student I communicated with indicated that there is a fear among some VSA members that voting against BDS publicly would result in retaliation by pro-BDS students on campus.

The VSA could punt on the issue and send it to the student body, according to a student leader quoted in Miscellany News:

In the end, the vote for anonymity may mean nothing. According to VSA President Ramy Ab­bady ’16, the original BDS Resolution brought forth by SJP and JVP has been broken up into a resolution and an amendment. As defined by the VSA Bylaws and the VSA Executive Board, the amendment and resolution must be presented at least one week before they are voted on. He wrote in an emailed statement, “If the VSA Coun­cil passes either or both documents, five percent of the student body must sign a petition to send them to a referendum vote. On the contrary, if the VSA Council does not pass either or both docu­ments, 15 percent of the student body must sign such a petition. The VSA Council can suspend these bylaws by a 2/3rds majority vote and send either or both documents straight to referendum. In a vote of the VSA Council, a simple majority is needed to adopt the resolution and a 2/3rds majority is needed to adopt the amendment. In a referendum, a simple majority of those voting is required to adopt either document.”

It’s unclear which side benefits the most from the secret vote, but it certainly reflects how BDS efforts poison the campus atmosphere.

[Featured Image: T-Shirt honoring airplane hijacker Leila Khalid sold at Vassar SJP Event]