by Doris Strub Epstein
A referendum at the University of Windsor last week to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel, was passed by about 800 students last week. Five hundred and eighty five were opposed. The total undergraduate enrollment is around 14,000. the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance has become the first student union in Canada to approve a BDS of Israel through an undergraduate referendum.
Several student councils in Canada have approved of similar resolutions, but a student wide referendum is a first in Canada.
According to Lance, the school’s student newspaper, the resolution which passed on Saturday, means the UWSA will cut ties with companies doing business with Israel including Costco, Sears, Home Depot and Canadian Tire, as well as cutting any ties with Israel in their investment portfolio.
One of the members of the group campaigning against the referendum said it has caused a hostile environment on campus for Jewish and pro Israel students.
The referendum followed the vandalization of the office of Vice President Academic Affairs of the UWSA, Jake De Jong. HIs Support our Troops banner hanging on the wall had been defaced with the Star of David and the word “Zionist” spray painted. Windsor police have classified it as a break -and- enter and hate crime and are investigating.
Vice president of the Jewish Students Association, Josh Zelkovitz said the BDS referendum is responsible for a “toxic environment” and an “unsafe environment for Jewish students.” He was highly critical of the voting process. “It was effectively rushed through in a way that would minimize debate, minimize dissent. The campaign period occurred mostly over reading week (and) the undergraduate society violated its own rules and its own constitution in order to bring this referendum about.”
In a statement, President of U of Windsor Alan Wildeman said, “I want to reassure the community that the University of Windsor campus is a safe place and we’re not going to tolerate anything that compromises the safety or security of anyone regardless of who they are or where they come from.”
The U of Windsor issue erupted in Ottawa with the Minister of Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, tweeting an image of the defaced banner last week. MP Essex, Jeff Watson, spoke out in the House of Commons, saying, “I rise to condemn the recent anti Semitic vandalism at the University of Windsor and its student alliances’ one- sided resolution to endure and participate in the misguided and hateful BDS movement (which) singles out the only Jewish state for condemnation while turning a blind eye to the world’s most grotesque violators of human rights…(it is a) new anti -Semitism poisoning our campuses.” https://urbanitenews.com/com/2014/02/27/student-referendum-brings-crime-and intimidation-to-uwindsor/.
“We’re going to investigate the complaints that we’ve got and see what that leads to and then take whatever actions or options that might be needed at that time, “Wildeman said.