Princeton University's student government conceded on Monday that its handling of an anti-Israel referendum was "unfair and incorrect," upholding an appeal against the school's chief elections manager, Brian Li, who misled students about how the vote would be tallied.
As a result, the student government said in an official statement on Monday that it would "not make a statement on behalf of the student body in favor or against the referendum," which called on the university to stop contracting with the construction company Caterpillar because it is a supplier of the Israel Defense Forces.
After huddling in a closed-door session, audio of which was reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, the student government acknowledged that Li erred when he told students that abstentions would count as a part of final vote total before reversing course. The closed-door session came in the wake of an April 14 appeal lodged by four student government officials against Li, who repeatedly told the student group Tigers for Israel that abstentions would count against the referendum. Tigers for Israel organized their campaign strategy around Li's guidance, encouraging students to abstain if they didn't feel comfortable voting no. But after voting closed, Li said abstentions wouldn't count after all, a reversal the appeal called "unfair and incorrect."
The appeal's success marks a victory for pro-Israel students on campus, who have worked to beat back Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions resolutions at elite schools.
Though the student government upheld the appeal, it ruled out a revote. Instead, student government officials drafted a statement, obtained by the Free Beacon, that passed the referendum but declined to comment on it.
"Given the close nature of the vote and the appeal of an action by the Chief Elections Manager," the draft statement reads, "the USG will not make a statement on behalf of the student body in favor or against the position taken by the referendum."
The mealy-mouthed statement will be delivered to the Princeton administration by the end of the week, a member of the student government confirmed.
The non-binding referendum argued that Caterpillar is complicit in the "murder of Palestinians," and the Princeton administration said it would not divest from Israel regardless of the referendum's outcome.
CORRECTION April 20, 4:39 p.m.: This story initially stated that Princeton's student government was standing by the vote. By not making any statement to the administration in favor or against the referendum, the student government is departing from tradition and acknowledging error, and we have updated the story accordingly. We regret the error.