BDS referendum fails to meet quorum

The referendum on BDS did not pass due to a failure to meet quorum.

Earlier in the month, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights raised that 1,000 signatures necessary to hold a referendum on whether the AMS should divest from companies that support the Israeli military's actions in Palestine. BDS had previously passed at McMaster, York and Ryerson University.

The words of the referendum question read as follows: "Do you support your student union (AMS) in boycotting products and divesting from companies that support Israeli war crimes, illegal occupation and the oppression of Palestinians?”

According to AMS President Tanner Bokor, the referendum question received more 'yes' than 'no' votes, but failed to meet the eight per cent of students quorum necessary for it to pass.

The referendum received 3,493 'yes' votes, 2,223 'no' votes and 435 abstentions. A total of 4,130 'yes' votes (8 per cent of 51,614 elegible students) was necessary for the referendum to pass.

Following the results of the referendum, SPHR released a statement on the number of 'yes' votes that the question received.

"SPHR would first and foremost like to thank the thousands of students who took the time to vote Yes to our boycott and divestment campaign, as well as the numerous student groups, professors, and allies who endorsed and supported our efforts over the past several months to push this important social justice campaign forward," read the statement. "Despite the fact that the referendum did not pass as it did not meet quorum, we are very proud and touched that a majority of almost 3,500 students voted in favour of disassociating from Israeli human rights violations and illegal occupation, which shows that students on our campus have not only been engaging with this vital issue, but are also becoming increasingly more critical of the violence and marginalization that Palestinians face on a daily basis. The referendum results show that despite the immense discrepancy in resources and funding between ourselves and the No campaign and the AMS’s decision to officially oppose the referendum question, that UBC students are nevertheless standing up for justice and asking our student union to do the same. This, to us, can be seen as a victory."

UBC's Hillel Branch, who have been the most vocal proponents of the 'no' side, also released a statement following the referendum.

"We are tremendously proud of the UBC community for rejecting BDS," read the statement. "Whether they voted no, or simply abstained from voting yes, students clearly recognize the importance of keeping our campus safe and open to all people of various opinions and backgrounds. We hope this will put the hateful and damaging BDS campaign to rest, so that we can all turn our attention to positive initiatives that will bring students together instead of those that divide them. We understand that not everyone will be happy with the referendum’s results and we extend our hand in the hope that we can work together through open dialogue and mutual respect to make the world a better place."

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include statement from SPHR and Hillel.