In a letter sent to SUNY Chancellor John King, Jr. obtained by Pipe Dream, two state legislators have demanded Binghamton University’s Student Association (SA) Congress withdraw a resolution it passed Tuesday night expressing the SA’s support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).

It was written by Charles Lavine and David Weprin, two downstate Democratic assemblymen, who say that if the SA doesn’t reject the resolution, it should lose its charter for violating New York law.

They cite Executive Order 157, signed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016, which prohibits state agencies from doing business with companies aligned with the BDS movement.

“The cynical action leads us to wonder why the [SA] would engage in such rash and ill-timed action without doing the most basic research into its legal authority to so act,” the letter, which was sent on Thursday, reads. “Perhaps the emotion of the moment got the better of those who advanced and voted to support the resolution. This is a time when cooler heads need to prevail.”

The authors urged King to communicate with the SA’s leadership to explore the legality of the resolution — which was sent to administrators, elected state officials and every member of the BU Council, in addition to King.

The University and SUNY did not respond to Pipe Dream’s requests for comment.

The resolution — which passed with 14 votes over 11 in opposition, two abstentions and one invalid ballot during a marathon meeting marked by hundreds of demonstrators — addresses the referenced executive order in its fourth “whereas” clause.

“New York State Executive Order 157 does not apply to the [SA] or the Student Activity Fee as it solely regulates state investments, such as pension funds, not state funding provided to [BU] and its [SA],” the resolution reads.

After passage, the legislation goes to the SA’s Judicial Board for review. The board previously told Pipe Dream it would evaluate the bill solely through the lens of existing rules and regulations. Daniel Croce, the SA’s vice president for finance and a senior majoring in business administration, said the question of the 2016 order’s relevance and impact were still to be decided.

“We are currently in discussions with the SA legal council if Executive Order 157 applies to the SA,” Croce wrote. “We are waiting for the normal judicial review’s internal process to occur as well. We are continuing to follow our internal processes to fully vet the resolution.”

The BDS legislation also directs the SA to recognize Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza as a genocide and Israel as an apartheid state. It prohibits the SA from partnering with the defense industry, though it notably excludes the association’s subsidiaries — like student organizations.

“The meeting’s results declare that the SA now has a mandate to uphold — democracy must prevail above intimidation,” the resolution’s organizers wrote in a statement to Pipe Dream. “The voting members in SA Congress, the organizations that comprise the Divest from Death coalition and our supporters in the student body, faculty, [local] community and State Legislature are committed to standing with the SA against political attacks from the [BU] Foundation, Assemblymembers Lavine and Weprin and any efforts to come.”

The organizers contended that anti-BDS laws have not withstood judicial scrutiny because of the constitutional right to boycott — an argument addressed by Weprin, who serves as the co-president of the National Association of Jewish Legislators.

“It’s not a question of First Amendment rights,” Weprin said. “It’s a question of discriminating against one particular country for antisemitic reasons.”

Lavine, his partner in the effort, is president of the National Association of Jewish Legislators’ New York chapter. He told Pipe Dream that discourse on campus should be a free flow of ideas respectfully and civilly, and he disagreed with the legislation’s characterization of Israel as a genocidal and apartheid state.

“Whether it’s a binding resolution or not a binding resolution, why engage in that sort of conduct — which is incendiary and which certainly is going to make Jewish students feel very uncomfortable and is designed to intimidate,” Lavine said. “We cannot allow that on our college campuses.”
With the BDS resolution’s passage, BU became one of the first SUNY campuses to endorse student-led divestment legislation. It follows a similar effort at the University at Albany amid a heightened environment for college activism.

Coalition members called on the SA’s E-Board to stand up to pressure and not veto the resolution.

“By ceding to this threat when we are already certain of our ability to maintain this legislation, a regrettable precedent that student free speech can be violated at the whims of donors and political officials would be set,” they wrote. “We face a difficult challenge ahead, and our growing coalition will stand with the SA in this fight — as long as they have our back, too. We have vested in them our collective power — now, they must exercise it by safeguarding our rights.”