As BDS referendum opens, some students plan to vote while others abstain

With the ballot for the BDS referendum -- which asks the AMS to divest from companies supporting Israeli Military action in Gaza and the West Bank -- now open to voters, a portion of the student population is gearing up to make their opinions heard.

That said, the majority of students that were surveyed simply did not know the BDS referendum was taking place.

The AMS referendum on BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divest and Sanctions, was put forth by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). Earlier this month, the group gathered 1,000 signatures to bring a referendum to the AMS, asking students to support AMS divestment from companies supporting Israeli military action in Gaza.

The AMS later disendorsed the referendum, urging students to vote 'any way but yes' on the basis that such a referendum would be divisive and ultimately detrimental to the student body.

Fourth-year commerce student Tony Han doesn’t think he’ll vote in the upcoming referendum.

“I don’t think I have enough information to make a decision,” Han said.

Han also said that although he knows what the BDS movement stands for, he doesn't feel as though he's informed enough to take a stance.

“I don’t know everything about the conflicts, so I can't comment further on it," said Han. "I don’t want to agree to something just because many people told me it’s the right way.”

Although the majority of students surveyed who were not involved with either SPHR or Hillel had little or no opinion, some showed interest not in the cause behind the referendum, but in its effect on the UBC community. Second-year Arts student Jason Zhang said that he thought this type of motion would, if passed, create a strong divide between students with differing political opinions.

“I think it’s perfectly acceptable for students to hold political opinions,” said Zhang, who plans to vote in the referendum. “However, I don’t think ... that it is the AMS’ business to organize an event that has to do with such a divisive issue, and one that can obviously stir up vitriol among the student body."

Zhang said that he would rather see the AMS focus on UBC-specific issues such as the transition to the new SUB.

“Obviously that doesn’t mean that they cannot address multiple issues at once, but I would imagine that they have more of a mandate to deal with issues closer to home,” said Zhang.

Voting on the referendum is open until March 27.