[The following open letter was issued by Students Against Israeli Apartheid - York University to York University in Toronto, ON on August 7, 2013]
RE: Attempted intimidation of student activists, anti-democratic invocation of University regulations, and abuse of administrative power, April 30, 2013 and May 3rd 2013
The York University community of progressive student activists and allies around the world have documented your dissemination of messages of intimidation to participant speakers of the Palestine solidarity rally on March 27, 2013 in Vari Hall.
We have also documented the York administration’s unwarranted and unjust invocations of sections 3(1) and 5(1) of the Trespass to Property Act, which have restricted Hammam Farah, a York alumnus, from entering York University, as well as the withdrawal of the University administration’s recognition of Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA).
We fervently denounce your actions as anti-democratic. Your claim that York University encourages freedom of expression and lively debate of controversial issues is laughable at best. Many members of the York community are aware of the University`s underhanded measures to regulate debate of controversial issues. These include previous undemocratic amendments to the Temporary Use of University Space policy (TUUS) and the 2010 Vari Hall renovations. Your predecessor, Rob Tiffin, admitted to Excalibur that the purpose of the renovations was to impede collective student expression in Vari Hall, contrary to the aspirations of the building’s architect, Raymond Moriyama.
York University`s Senate Policy on Disruptive and/or Harassing Behaviour in Academic Situations and the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, like TUUS, are at present incompatible with a critical democratic environment because there is no exception to provide for peaceful protests of a disruptive nature. This is an issue that SAIA has already brought to the attention of the TUUS office, and we expect that it was brought to your attention as well.
We once again cite the Canadian Civil Liberties Association`s letter addressed to you on January 10, 2013, which stated that:
“York University is a well-respected institution of higher learning and, as such, is well placed to encourage critical thinking and questioning, even when this takes a form that may result in some level of inconvenience or interference with the everyday workings of the University. Events that are simply noisy, disruptive or cause some inconvenience are often still peaceful and, in many cases, such disruption is a core component of the nature of the protest or the message being conveyed.”
By this letter, the student movement is giving you notice that you have failed to comply with basic democratic values. Your actions have demonstrated that York University only encourages freedom of expression and lively debate when the questions regarding the University`s investments are not up for discussion.
We will continue to exercise our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. We will continue to speak out, to protest, and to push for the divestment of university funds from weapons manufacturing companies. We refuse to be silenced and we refuse to be complicit.
We call on the University Administration to rescind its trespass notice against alumnus and activist Hammam Farah, to reinstate SAIA as an official student club, and to make a firm commitment to work with students to ensure that freedom of speech and freedom of association are upheld.
We urge you to take this matter seriously to ensure that you comply with basic principles of democracy in the future.
Students Against Israeli Apartheid - York University
Ontario Public Interest Research Group - York University
Dundee University Action Palestine Society - Scotland
Glasgow Caledonian University Students for Palestinian Rights - Scotland
Glasgow University Palestine Society - Scotland
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Seriously Free Speech Committee
Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights – Western University
Students Against Israeli Apartheid – University of Toronto Mississauga
Students for Justice in Palestine – College of Staten Island
Students for Justice in Palestine – Hunter College
Students for Justice in Palestine – John Jay College
Students for Justice in Palestine – National, ad hoc steering committee
We Are All Hana Shalabi student network - Scotland
- An-Najah National University
Student Youth Movement in Al-Quds Open University in the following branches:
Student Councils in the following Universities:
- An-Najah National University
- Al-Rawda College
Student Councils in the following Al-Quds Open Universities:
Video of the York University Board of Governors walking out as student protesters read an open letter to the Board defending students’ civil liberties:
Petition Calling on the University to Restore Students against Israeli Apartheid’s Club Status and to Revoke the Ban of Alumnus Hammam Farah