Kudos to President Bollinger for making this statement. We need more leaders in higher education to do the same.

From the Columbia website:

President Bollinger Condemns Anti-Semitism in a Statement Before the Senate Plenary

I want to speak about a difficult matter—about a concern I have regarding the risk of a rising anti-Semitism on our campus. Any bigotry and prejudice toward groups is intolerable, especially (for all the obvious reasons) within a university, and we should be quick to condemn its presence in any form and in any context. In my life, I have tried to do so, whether it be racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-Asian, or any other kind. Over the past year, I have increasingly become concerned about anti-Semitism, and I feel it is important for me to say something now.

There is an upcoming vote among undergraduate students on a proposal to recommend that the University divest from companies doing business with Israel involving the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no question that this is a highly contentious issue, both the underlying issues of Israel and the Palestinians and the idea of divestment as a means of protest about Israel’s policies.

I do not support the proposal for divestment. That is for two reasons. One is the longstanding understanding that the University should not change its investment policies on the basis of a political position unless there is a broad consensus within the institution that to do so is morally and ethically compelled. This is a necessary though not sufficient condition. I do not believe that consensus exists with respect to this proposal.

But I disagree on the merits, too. I believe this imposes a standard on this particular political issue that is not right when one considers similar issues in other countries and in other contexts around the world. To my mind that is unwise, analytically flawed, and violates my sense of fairness and proportionality. I well understand that some others whom I respect hold different views, but, if I am called upon to take a position, this is the one I have come to over the years.

My concern today, however, is not just with this proposal, but with the broader atmosphere in which this and other related issues are being debated. Feelings are charged. Divestment is a piece of a larger and controversial BDS movement.


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