The Ohio State University student senate passed a Boycott Divest and Sanctions resolution aimed at Israel April 6 at the last meeting of the semester.

A resolution inspired by the boycott, divest and sanctions movement against Israel that The Ohio State University student senate approved April 6 has died after the outgoing student senate president, Jacob Chang, failed to sign it.

Ethan Wolf, an alternate student senator who is a senior at The Ohio State University in Columbus, told the Columbus Jewish News April 13 the resolution – targeting Hewlett Packard and Caterpillar Inc. for their business interests in Israel – was doomed from the start.

“Whether the president signed it or not, whether it made it through the trustees or not, at the end, the end game was the same, because it was never going to be implemented,” Wolf said.

“It’s illegal in the state of Ohio to pass the divestment bill from the State of Israel specifically,” he added, referring to anti-BDS legislation passed by the Ohio legislature in 2016. “So it was a toothless bill that just put Jewish people at risk.”

[ Jewish groups condemn OSU student divestment resolution ]

The resolution passed by a vote of 14-8 with two abstentions.

Its main impact, Wolf said, will be to affect campus climate.

“There’s still a lot of students that I think are going to be pretty upset with that,” he said, adding that because of the way the process was framed, no public forum took place before the vote, although more than 40 Jewish students had spoken about the resolution March 30. “I’m pretty upset that when people tried to bring those concerns to the table to be heard, they were silenced and shut out of the room.”

Benjamin Johnson, Ohio State University’s senior director of media relations, media and public relations, emailed a statement to the Columbus Jewish News April 13.

“Ohio State has an unwavering commitment to free speech and encourages our students, faculty and staff to engage in discussion and debate and respects the right of the USG General Assembly to engage in free expression on issues it believes are pertinent to campus affairs,” Johnson wrote. “Based on the USG bylaws, because the outgoing USG president did not sign this resolution, it represents the opinion of the outgoing USG General Assembly and not of the entire USG as an organization. This distinction means that this resolution does not meet the threshold described in the university’s investment policy, and the university will not move forward with any action on this resolution.”

[ Jewish students at OSU fight divestment resolution ]

Joseph Kohane, executive director of Ohio State University Hillel, said he was pleased with the ultimate outcome in an April 12 email to the Columbus Jewish News.

“This is a fitting end to a terrible resolution,” Kohane wrote.

He also explained the process of what had happened.

“The outgoing undergraduate student government president did not sign the BDS resolution passed last Wednesday and as of 7:45 p.m. (April 12), USG has a new president,” Kohane wrote, referring to incoming student senate president Andrew Pierce. “So the resolution that passed last week is just the opinion of last year’s general assembly, not of USG and the new (undergraduate student government) administration is not bound by it, as all of the 54th general assembly’s legislation expired tonight with the inauguration of the 55th.”

Rabbi Levi Andrusier, executive director of Schottenstein Chabad House at OSU, praised Chang for "doing the right thing and not buckling under pressure."

In addition, he told the Columbus Jewish News April 13 that he was concerned about the handling of the motion and the silencing of Jewish voices "still lingers with all of us, and most importantly, the students who led the fight against the BDS resolution."

He said he has noticed an outcome regarding interest on campus in Jewish observance.

"A positive result from all the commotion over the last couple of weeks, is that many more students are feeling the need to strengthen their Jewish connection and add more Jewish observance to their lives," Andrusier said. "As a result, many more students want to experience Passover and participate in Passover seders." 

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