SU referendum calling for divestment from Boeing fails 

| Staff Writer

A Washington University Student Union (SU) referendum to divest from Boeing failed to reach the required two-thirds of “yes” votes in order to pass, May 9. Out of 2,661 student voters, 61.59% voted in favor of the referendum, and the remaining 38.41% voted against. 

The referendum referenced multiple reasons behind the decision to call for divestment, including reports of Boeing’s sales of arms to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and India that were linked to civilian casualties in Gaza, Yemen, and Kashmir, respectively. The referendum also cited environmental concerns due to Boeing’s release of greenhouse gases and pointed to an SU Senate resolution that called for divestment from Boeing in March. 

Junior Gavin Wagner, SU Election Commissioner, wrote in an email to Student Life that this was the first official referendum of 2024. 

Last month there was a recall election which operates similarly but is a unique process in the SU Constitution,” Wagner said, about a vote in March which failed to recall the Speaker of the Senate. 

“The biggest difference is that recall only needs a simple majority to pass where this referendum needs two-thirds majority.”  

The final demands of the referendum were for the University to “issue yearly endowment transparency reports listing top companies WashU invests in, stop hosting Boeing at career opportunity and recruitment events, and fully divest from Boeing.” 

SU’s constitution allows a referendum to be voted on by the constituency if a petition posted on Washington University Group Organizer (WUGO) is signed by 5% of the student body. 

Multiple groups on campus, including Chabad, Hillel, and WashU Jewish Advocacy Council (JAC) vocally opposed the referendum in the days before the vote. 

Chabad leadership sent out a text blast the day of voting asking students to vote no. Hillel also sent out an email with a message from JAC, asking students to “help us keep WashU safe.” 

“This is effectively a referendum on BDS (the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement),” Hillel’s email said. “Schools that have passed similar BDS efforts have seen antisemitism increase by 300%.” 

In an Instagram post, Resist WashU listed 16 campus groups that they said supported divestment, including Jewish Students for Palestine, Asians Demanding Justice, Pride Alliance, Green Action, and the Association of Black Students.  

As opposed to the SU resolution for divestment where 20 elected senators voted on the proposal, Wagner said that a referendum is seen as an opportunity for the student body as a whole to weigh in on this issue.

In their online post, Resist WashU echoed this sentiment. 

“A successful referendum will establish that the majority of students support divestment,” they wrote. “Even a simple majority of votes in favor is a step further towards divestment.” 

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