After a divisive lead-up to the referendum, King's students have voted overwhelmingly in favour of divesting from Israeli-linked companies, but low turnout means the results are not binding.
The final count saw 355 students (75.9 per cent) vote in favour of divestment while only 113 voted no (24.1 per cent). 165 students also abstained. This means only about 17 per cent of King's students voted, falling short of the 30 per cent required to make the referendum binding.
Nate Little, King's University College Students' Council (KUCSC) president, said that while the vote wasn't binding it still holds symbolic value.
"It’s telling that the people involved overwhelmingly supported the yes side," said Little. "The council doesn’t have to do anything but it’s still symbolically shows where the people at King’s who are voting stands."
Matt Helfand, Western law student who argued against the BDS referendum during the affiliate appeals board meeting, felt that the referendum was unnecessary to begin with.
"This referendum absolutely should have never happened given the appeal board decision in January," said Helfand. "The KUCSC leadership who were driving this have shown a complete disdain for their own processes and should be ashamed. Sad."
Haya Alsakka, fourth-year French and psychology King's student who has been involved with in the referendum since its inception last March, said that while she was excited to see students involved, she was also disappointed with the turnout.
"I feel like it's been a problem at King's altogether. Last [month] was the first time we had the highest turnout for any election but that’s because they actually set up voter booths.
"The other thing is I feel like King’s [students'] council doesn’t particularly bring political issues to the table and that might be part of it, that students just saw it and didn’t know how to react to it," continued Alsakka.
The question posed to King's students read as follows:
"Do you as a King’s student support calling upon the KUCSC to lobby King’s administration to boycott and divest from any and all companies and products complicit with Israeli occupation based on principles of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption and change the responsible investment policies to reflect these lobbying efforts?"
This wording came after months of controversy and debate over the nature of the referendum. Originally, the KUCSC approved a question about support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. However, in a meeting on Jan. 8, the Affiliates Appeals Board shot the question down and asked for a more general stance on ethical investment.
On Feb. 14, the KUCSC voted 14-10 in favour of explicitly asking students about divesting from Israeli-linked companies.