We have covered extensively the goings on at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, with regard to anti-Israel resolutions proposed by Vassar Students for Justice in Palestine and Vassar Jewish Voice for Peace.

The atmosphere has been particularly toxic, with overt acts of anti-Semitism and intimidation of students who oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. For background, see the Vassar College Tag and these posts:

The short version is that the Vassar Student Association council passed a resolution endorsing the BDS movement, but fell short on endorsing a resolution prohibiting use of student funding for certain companies, including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Both resolutions now are up for a full student body referendum. Voting started today at Noon, and runs through Thursday Noon.

Because of the extensive national publicity about Vassar’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic atmosphere, the referenda take on added importance for Vassar’s credibility as an institution. I have to wonder if the students recognize that if they pass the referenda, they will be diminishing the value of their own degrees. (added) Even though the Vassar administration has stated it would not implement a boycott of Israel, a student body vote to boycott Israel would send a message to the greater community, including prospective students, as to the atmosphere on campus.

Indeed, in the run up to the referenda, there was another reported act of anti-Semitism which has not received much attention.

A swastika was discovered on a student door — the details remain murky. I did not previously report on it because the details were not verified.  Vassar media relations did not respond to my request for comment. But the Vassar Dean of Students took to the student newspaper this week to defend its response to the swastika incident:

Following an agreed-upon protocol between BIRT [Bias Incident and Response Team] and Residential Life, a Not in My House message was sent to house residents on April 14. The purpose of such a message is to first support those who may have been most impacted by a bias incident and to also respect the privacy of any individual student(s) involved. During this time, various administrators were also in conversation with the reporting student and other impacted students to provide necessary support. We were also considering what impact a broader message would have on the campus community. On April 18, BIRT did, in fact, send an email to the campus community, alerting everyone to the swastika incident. Like all BIRT messages sent to the campus community, it does not mention specific details about the incident … The campus-wide message concluded with a strong message to the community: “Vassar College strives to provide educational, working, and living environments free from discrimination, harassment, intolerance, and hate. Such behavior will not be tolerated.”

The BDS referendum is particularly deceptive, as it does not mention an academic boycott of Israel, but SJP takes the position that if it passes it would constitute an endorsement of the academic boycott. We explained in Vassar anti-Israel activists attempt stealth academic boycott Resolution. I have confirmed with a student active in the issue on campus that there has been almost no discussion of the academic boycott, which would be much more controversial than boycotting Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

SJP is the driving force behind the anti-Israel movement and the referenda, but it puts Jewish Voice for Peace out front (which is the role JVP plays on many campuses – to present a “Jewish” face to BDS):



The main opposition is from left-wing J Street U.


A group calling itself Vassar United (whose identity and origins are unclear) also has weighed in:


There has been tension between J Street U and SJP, with J Street accusing SJP of smear tactics:


Turnout will be key. One student involved in fighting the referenda told me that apathy may be the biggest problem. After the national media firestorm a few weeks ago, many students have moved on.

Since the anti-Israel students generally are more motivated to get involved, a small turnout generally helps BDS. In places, like Bowdoin, where the turnout is high, BDS fails miserably.

We will report on the results when they are announced on Thursday.

[Featured Image: Vassar SJP student Andrew Joung wearing shirt honoring airplane hijacker Leila Khalid]