UPDATE (Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 1:05 p.m.): The petition submitted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) received enough signatures to prompt a student referendum. Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) sent the referendum to students today at noon and students will have until Wednesday, May 6 at noon to cast their votes. 

In order to pass, one-third of the student body will need to vote on the referendum and two-thirds of all voters must vote in favor. If the referendum passes, it will be submitted to the administration as a representation of the voice of the student body.

The referendum reads as follows:

"Do you support a resolution boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions as detailed below?

It is resolved that the Bowdoin student body endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions. It is also resolved that we support the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine, as well as their right to speak out in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.

This boycott will remain in place until Israel:

1. Ends its occupation and colonization of all Palestinian lands and dismantles the Wall;
2. Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."

Students have three voting options, "in favor," "opposed," and "abstain."

On Thursday, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) revised the number of signatures that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) must obtain on its petition calling on Bowdoin to participate in an academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions in order to prompt an official student referendum on the issue. 

SJP appeared to have reached its goal of one-fifth of the student body by its initial Wednesday deadline with 361 signatures before BSG amended the necessary number to 383 in order to account for students studying abroad. BSG has extended SJP’s deadline to 5 p.m. today. 

According to BSG’s constitution, student-initiated petitions require the signatures of one-fifth of the student body to bring an issue to an all-student referendum. A two-thirds majority of at least one-third of the student body is required for a referendum to pass. 

BSG realized that Bowdoin’s total enrollment was 1,915 earlier this week when it became clear that students abroad were not included in the base enrollment number. 

“They were given the number of 360 for the number of people they needed to sign, leading up to [Wednesday]...that number came from Bowdoin’s website and was verified by BSG. But essentially we started to question, ‘What about people studying abroad who sign it but aren’t actually counted in the denominator as far as the 20 percent,’” explained BSG President Chris Breen ’15.

SJP members expressed frustration about the decision.

“We were completely in the dark, I would say, in terms of  figuring out how it would be determined how much longer we would have to do this,” said SJP member Sinead Lamel ’15. 

Juniors Zachary Albert, Rachel Snyder and Evan Eklund submitted an op-ed to the Orient on April 9 expressing their opposition to SJP’s petition and urging BSG to reject the resolution.

“A lot of the people who are signing are minimally informed, and those signatures don’t mean anything because they don’t know what they’re signing. But they are about to mean everything,” said Snyder.

Earlier this week, members of J Street U Bowdoin, a student organization that labels itself “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans,” emailed all those who had signed the petition and shared a link through which students could unsign the petition.

Sasha Kramer ’16, one of J Street U Bowdoin’s leaders, said that many students thanked the group for enabling them to take their names off the petition. 

Leah Kahn ’15, acting on behalf of a separate group of students but not any specific organization, forwarded a separate email sharing the same link with petition signers.

While no group was able to provide an exact number, Lamel estimated that around 60  people unsigned the petition following the emails. 

According to Christopher Wedeman ’15, another SJP member, a decision from Bowdoin to take part in an academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions would mean the College would neither take part in events funded by Israeli universities or organizations, nor invite scholars to speak on campus as representatives of these institutions—though Israeli academics would still be welcome to speak on campus independent of their organizations.

However, some students expressed concerns about the boycott. 

“[The petition] is antithetical to the mission of Bowdoin College... This is fundamentally not in concert with what Bowdoin is, should be, or has been set out as,” said Matthew Liptrot ’16.

At press time, SJP needed 24 signatures to reach their new goal. The online petition currently lists a number eight below that recognized by BSG, since some students wished to sign but had issues with the petition website.

“If there’s then a referendum, BSG will run that right away,” said Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster.

—John Branch contributed to this report.