Divestment was defeated last week by students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). 1,700 voted for the referendum, while 3,133 voted no - a decisive 2:1 victory. The vote, which took place March 7th and 8th, was over a call for the University of Illinois to divest from 17 companies doing business in Israel. This is the second consecutive year that the divestment referendum was voted down by the student body.
In February, the UIUC chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), in coalition with other groups, re-launched an aggressive campaign called UIUC Divest, which demanded that UIUC divest from 17 corporations that they allege "are complicit in human rights violations." However, the broader goal of the divestment campaign was in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which works to delegitimize Israel on university campuses.
Student leaders from UIUC Hillel, IlliniPAC, Chabad, AEPi, and more worked under the umbrella of United Illini for a United Campus to oppose the divisive nature of divestment and to promote a unified campus.
"Divestment would have signaled to both Jewish and non-Jewish students on this campus that their futures don't matter and that the Israeli and Jewish communities here are unwelcome," said Sam Mostow, a UIUC student and JUF Israel Education Center intern. "That is not what this campus stands for."
The students worked, in consultation with JUF's Israel Education Center, campus faculty, and national partners including the Israel on Campus Coalition, Stand With Us, Hillel International, JFNA's Israel Action Network and more around the clock to prevent the referendum from passing and ensure that UIUC's values of inclusion, diversity and academic freedom are upheld.
In addition to rejecting the referendum, the University recently signed Memoranda of Understanding with leading Israeli universities to encourage institutional collaborations.
In a recent article for the Daily Illini , Jeffrey Brown, Dean of the Business School said, "We should not deny our community the opportunity to learn about these issues firsthand by visiting Israel, by engaging with companies that do business with or in Israel or by welcoming Israeli guests to our campus."