Citizen Action Monitor

Toronto’s York University revokes status of Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA)

When SAIA members attended a Board of Governors meeting to voice their concerns, the Governors walked out

No 824 Posted by fw, August 2, 2013

Thanks to Mondoweiss for publishing this story, reposted here in a 3-part, modified version, including additional information. To access the original version, click on Mondoweiss’ linked title below. This modified version begins here –

Part 1Video of York University Board of Governors walking out on students, followed by the text accompanying the 2:39-minute video. The video was published on July 22, 2013.

Text Accompanying Video

On June 24, 2013, members of Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University in Toronto attended the Board of Governors meeting to express their concerns regarding the University’s investments in weapons manufacturing companies and the University’s recent undemocratic decision to ban York alumnus and activist Hammam Farah from campus and revoke SAIA’s student club status.

The University’s decision was in response to a SAIA protest that took place on March 27, 2013 to celebrate the passing of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions resolutions at the student unions and to demand that York University divest from weapons manufacturing companies and to amend or revoke its undemocratic policies that infringe on freedom of speech and assembly.

Part 2Mondoweiss Article

After string of victories at York University, anti-apartheid group sees its student club status revoked by Annie Robbins, Mondoweiss, July 29, 2013

The administration of Canada’s third-largest university, Toronto’s York University (YU) has taken an extraordinary step by revoking the status of an official student club, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA).

The administration has also barred popular activist/alumnus Hammam Farah from York’s campus. Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University say these actions represent “an unprecedented attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has entered the fray by releasing a public statement defending the right to peaceful protest.

On July 24th, members of Students Against Israeli Apartheid attended YU’s Board of Governors meeting to express their concern over what they characterized as an “undemocratic decision” as well as to challenge YU’s Pension and Endowment Fund for its investments in companies that profit from selling weapons and military technologies to the Israeli military. The Governors walked out on the action. ([ee above video]

SAIA activists have been effective in chalking up success after success leading to the passage of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motions at YU. They lost official status at the university after using a loudspeaker at a demonstration, which the university said broke rules aimed at not disrupting classes.

The students have started a Petition [below] to revoke ban of SAIA and Hammam Farah. You can show your support for the SAIA cause by signing the petition here http://chn.ge/1acNeT3

[PETITION]

In response to increased pressure from Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University (SAIA), the York University administration has taken the extraordinary measures of banning a community member and alumnus from campus, to threaten student leaders with punishment, and furthermore, to revoke the official student club status of SAIA until January 2014. These actions represent an unprecedented attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech on the York University campus.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has released its public statement defending the right to peaceful protest – even if the protest is disruptive: “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.” Loud, yet peaceful, protests should not be silenced, especially when students are fighting for social justice and universal human rights.

This past year, SAIA has been especially successful in passing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motions at both the York University Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the York Federation of Students (YFS), as well as gaining over 5,000 signatures of undergraduate students on a petition calling for BDS. CUPE 3903, the union for Teaching Assistants and Contract Faculty, passed a BDS motion in 2009. In response to the mass mobilization efforts of SAIA, including silent vigils, written statements, and public protests, all of these student and worker organizations have made a commitment to push the York University administration to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations as well as violations of International Law.

Currently, the York University Pension Fund and Endowment Fund are invested in companies that sell weapons and other military technologies to the Israeli military. These companies are complicit in the murder of innocent Palestinian families in Gaza as recently as November 2012.

The administration is no longer abiding by the University’s own mission statement of being a University that “cultivate(s) the critical intellect”, that “explore(s) global concerns”, and most importantly, that is a “community of faculty, students, staff, alumni, and volunteers committed to academic freedom, social justice, accessible education, and collegial self-governance”.

We, the undersigned, demand that the York University administration comply with York’s mission statement by:

1) Immediately reinstating Students Against Israeli Apartheid as a registered student club at York University;
2) Immediately recalling its trespass order against alumnus and activist Hammam Farah;
3) Making a firm commitment to upholding the universal values of freedom of speech and freedom of association, which includes, but is not limited to, amending or revoking University policies that place limits on said freedoms.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

About Annie Robbins — Annie is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

Part 3I did sign the petition. Here’s a copy of York’s email response from the VP Students

From: On Behalf Of VP Students
Sent: May-23-13 2:56 PM
Subject: Thank you for your e-mail

Thank you for your e-mail.

York University is a place that values freedom of expression, open dialogue and peaceful discussion, while being mindful and understanding that this is an academic setting. The University does not permit such expression to compromise or disrupt classes or other academic activities.

In this instance, a student-organized event significantly disrupted academic activities, which is a direct contravention of the University’s academic policy. As a result of this non-compliance, Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University has had its student club status revoked until the end of the 2014 fall/winter term.

The University does not discuss information about individuals, however, the policies regarding academic disruption apply equally to student groups and individuals.

Vice-Provost Students
Division of Students, 303 Bennett Centre for Student Services
York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 

In response to the above email, on May 23, as an Ontario taxpayer, I emailed a request for a brief description of the specific academic activities that were “significantly disrupted” by the SAIA event.

To date, there has been no reply.

RELATED LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/SAIA.York
https://twitter.com/SaiaYork

Letter from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association: http://www.scribd.com/doc/147020383/L…

Letter from the Ontario Civil Liberties Association: http://www.scribd.com/doc/148396084/2…

SEE ALSO

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I claim no ownership of such materials. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

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