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Divestment referendum fails to pass by slim margin

The divestment referendum did not pass, with 52.5 percent of students voting against divestment and 47.5 percent voting in favor of it.

The referendum called on theUniversity to divest from companies“that maintain the infrastructure of the Israelioccupation of the West Bank, facilitate Israel’s and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or facilitate state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian, and Palestinian Authority security force.”


Though 2,200 students participated in the election and voting process, only 2,032 students voted on the referendum.

Princeton Committee on Palestine board member Katie Horvath ’15 explained that, although the movement for divestment had been significant, she was not surprised at the outcome of the referendum.

“We knew from the outset that this was going to be an uphill battle, and we had done our research and looked at the previous divestment movements at Princeton,” Horvath said.

She added that she was pleased to have lost by only 102 votes, because with more outreach and slightly increased support, the referendum would pass in a similar scenario. She explained that because winning the vote was a long shot, the leaders of the campaign had multiple goals during the process.

“We had three goals, and only one of them was the actual numbers of the referendum. The other two goals were education and reaching the broader audience outside of this University,” Horvath said.

The University is a leader in the United States, so the relative success of the campaign will give hope to pro-divestment students at other colleges, she explained.


“If we can run a campaign here, on a campus that has so recently been apathetic and historically has been very resistant to divestment and to change, this could happen anywhere,” Horvath added. “A lot of schools will have even more success the first time around than we had.”

There may or may not be a referendum next year, depending on how events play out, she noted. The divestment movement is certainly not going away, and another referendum will probably be useful to pursue in the future, she added.

Though she feels some regret about the outcome of the vote, the diversity of race, religion, other social justice interests was inspiring, Horvath said.

“One of the things that I’m most excited about in this campaign is that it catalyzed this unprecedented show of solidarity on campus from all sectors,” Horvath said, adding that she hopes the unity shown by students and various student groups will happen again in the future.

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Leading up to the vote, Elise Backman ’15 said she and fellow members of the No Divest coalition had been trying to talk to as many students as possible about alternative ways to promote a two-state solution and sustainable peace among Israelis and Palestinians.

“We were just really proud that the majority of the voting students saw through the misleading language of the referendum and ended up rejecting what we saw as a counterproductive proposition, especially coming from the University forum,” she said."We don’t believe that it’s a productive policy tool to improve the status quo in the region."

While the coalition had no expectations about whether the referendum would pass, Backman said, she successfully predicted that the outcome would be very close given the abundance of perspectives.

“Moving forward, we really want to focus on impacting the region in as positive and constructive a way that we can, and we hope that other students will join us in that endeavor,” Backman said.

She noted that the No Divest coalition will continue working on Tigers Together, which begun earlier this year as a collaboration mainly between Tigers for Israel and J Street U.

“Tigers Together wants to have as positive and constructive and immediate of an impact as possible on the ground by supporting organizations that work on development issues for Israelis and Palestinians, like entrepreneurship and water scarcity,” Backman said, adding that Tigers Together has already begun fundraising for such organizations.

She explained that next year, Tigers Together will also launch an internship program that will send students to Israel or Palestine, so that they can bring firsthand perspectives on the region back to campus. The organization is seeking faculty from a diverse arena of academic disciplines, including the Wilson School and development-oriented fields, Backman noted.

“We think the more students that know about the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, the better,” she said, adding that the No Divest coalition is happy that there is dialogue on campus concerning the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

Thirteen students ran for ten U-councilor positions. Naimah Hakim ’16 gained the most votes at 791, Dallas Nan ’16 followed with 630 total votes and Brandon McGhee '18 had the third highest number of votes at 614 in total. The other elected U-councilors include Jacob Cannon ‘17, Christopher Hsu ’18, Ethan Marcus ’18, Lavinia Liang ’18, Miranda Rosen ’18, Shobhit Kumar ’18 and Sol Taubin ’16.

For the 2016 Class Council, the positions for president, vice president, treasurer and social chair were all unopposed. Justin Ziegler ’16 has been elected President, Gwendolyn Lee ’16 as vice president, Richard Lu ’16 as Treasurer, and Alec Regulski ’16 as Social Chair. Priya Krishnan ’16 was elected secretary by a 60.2 percent majority.

Every position for the 2017 Class Council was unopposed. Andrew Sun ’17 was elected as president, Nathan Suek ’17 as vice president, Caroline Snowden ’17 as Treasurer, Ariel Hsing ’17 as Social Chair, and Nusrat Ahmed ’17 as Secretary.

The positions of vice president and treasurer were contested for the Class of 2018. , and Rachel Yee ’18 was elected vice president by a 72.2% majority.

There will be a runoff election between Jenny Zhang ’18 and Yash Patel ’18 for Treasurer, due to the closeness of the votes. Zhang received 268 votes, approximately 42.4 percent, and Patel received 274 votes at approximately 43.4 percent.

Chance Fletcher ’18 ran unopposed for class president, Anyssa Chebbi ’18 ran unopposed for social chair and Kevin Liu ’18 ran unopposed for secretary.