All Posts Tagged With: "York Federation of Students"
There’s enough to worry about right there on campus
Sean Wilson, a board member of the University of Regina Students’ Union, says that student leaders should be focused on things like tuition, residences and public transit. Recently, they’ve often been focused on the Middle East instead. Not on those killed by their own government in Syria, the sexual minorities mistreated by Iran or women subjugated by Saudi Arabia. No, they’ve been debating whether to join such international power brokers as Lenny Kravitz and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland in their commitments to not buy Israeli products or host Israeli academics.
Big deal right? I would argue yes, and not just because these student unions are taking sides.
Jewish students say they’re victims of discrimination
This decision was made during a meeting called by the YFS’ executive members on March 21, when a motion was put forth to endorse the campaign, resulting in a vote of 18-2 in favour.
Approximately 200 undergraduate students attended the meeting.
Safiyah Husein, vice-president equity of the YFS, says the movement is a form of “international solidarity with the Palestinian call for justice, equality, and an end to the occupation,” that, “puts pressure on institutions to divest from companies currently funding weaponry for the Israeli military.”
More than 5,000 students signed a petition asking the YFS to discuss the BDS issue, says Husein.
I was jack-of-all-trades and master of none. But it worked.
The 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings asked some of Canada’s most successful writers, politicians, and scientists what they wish they’d known in university. Their responses are a perfect addition to our First Year Survivor blog. Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC Radio’s Q, shared his wisdom—and opinion on tuition—with Julie Smyth.
I went to York University and I partly did that because I didn’t want to stray too far from Toronto. I was already playing in a band. My first intentions were to go for theatre but I had a passion for politics and history and that is what I ended up doing—pursing a political science and history double major that turned into a political science major/history minor with women’s studies as a minor as well.
I did all of this with some trepidation. I desperately worried throughout university that I was a jack of various trades and master of nothing. At the same time, I was a student activist and I was really involved in theatre and music and I had started this band, Moxy Früvous.
Texas tuition freeze, a stabbing & mandatory women’s studies
1. Two people were stabbed during a fight at a house party near McMaster University early on Sunday. This isn’t the first stabbing at a house party near McMaster. Many of the people in attendance were from out of town, police say.
2. Rick Perry, the conservative Texas governor who ran for the Republican presidential nomination, has endorsed a four-year tuition freeze at state colleges and universities. Anti-tuition advocates usually have more success with left-wing parties, but this statement won’t surprise anyone who has heard of Perry’s push to create a $10,000 degree in the Lonestar State.
3. The York Federation of Students is pushing for “a mandatory equity or women’s studies course to help students gain awareness of the root causes behind sexual assaults and violence.” A professor in York’s the School of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies says it may not be the best idea and that there is no guarantee such a course would actually reduce sexual assaults.
The ups and downs of online polls in student elections
Sarah Petz, a reporter with the Manitoban student newspaper, is disappointed that so few of her fellow students bothered to vote in last month’s University of Manitoba Students’ Union election. “At seven per cent,” she says, “the result is not very representative.” It’s not that there weren’t clear differences between candidates. There were. The Manitoban uploaded candidate interviews to YouTube and shared them on Twitter. It wrote about issues from printer breakdowns to the construction delays on the opening of the ﬁrst campus pub. And yet, despite it all, only 1,900 of the 26,000 eligible students exercised their right to decide who will run the $1-million organization for the next year-long term.
But just because Petz was disappointed, don’t assume she was surprised. “Beyond a small group of highly active students,” she says, “no one seems to care.” Turnout is often low at the U of M. It’s not much better at the University of Toronto, where only 10 per cent of students voted this year, and worse at York University where turnout was just ﬁve per cent in 2011. But low voter turnout isn’t inevitable. Not anymore. At McMaster University, where students receive ballots in their campus inboxes that they can ﬁll out on iPads, laptops or smartphones, turnout hit 33 per cent this year. That’s up from 24 per cent last year, 22 per cent the year before and much higher than the 13 per cent turnout in 2009, back before they ditched paper and pens.
How UofMosaic is tackling tensions on campus
A group called Laurier 4 Palestine (L4P) tacked up illustrated posters in the atrium of Wilfrid Laurier University’s main building in Waterloo, Ont. during Israeli Apartheid Week, earlier this month.
One was of a gaunt and lifeless body beneath a barbed-wire fence with an Arab keffiyeh around his neck and wearing a striped uniform. The juxtaposition of the keffiyeh and the stripes ignited a war of words between Muslim L4P members and Jewish students from Hillel Waterloo. It was the type of uniform that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, says Hillel Waterloo director Jessica Kronis. The poster implied that the occupation of Gaza is comparable to the genocide that killed six-million Jews. Kronis says it made Jewish students feel unsafe.
Student unions pour money into political causes that many members don’t even know about, let alone support
The story made headlines everywhere: it was Feb. 11, 2009, and Daniel Ferman was a member of Drop YFS, a group dedicated to overthrowing the York Federation of Students. Drop YFS was presenting a petition with 5,000 signatures—enough to stage a coup of sorts. They were protesting the student union’s support for a teachers’ strike, which would potentially leave students on the hook for missed class time. They were also against the union backing the Israeli Apartheid Week, which many pro-Israel students despised. As the press conference began, Ferman and his fellow Drop YFS members were faced with a crush of student union members who came in to denounce the petition rally. After a volley of shouting, the crowd moved to the Hillel student lounge where some of the Drop YFS members took refuge. “Students were barricaded in the lounge,” says Ferman, who was Hillel @ York’s president at the time and helped organize the Drop YFS effort. “It got very nasty. Police were called. There were racist slurs.”
Students like Ferman don’t think it’s the student government’s role to take sides on political issues. “I think students have every right to speak up when they feel student dollars are promoting hate and a toxic atmosphere on campus,” says Ferman. Since the 1980s, student unions have been growing in power. They take money from undergraduates every year, which is charged separate from but alongside tuition, and they’re supposed to work for students. Some of that cash funds services, such as health and dental coverage, and student athletics. But much of it goes to advocacy and clubs students may find offensive. “They’d taken very controversial stances on what to fund in pro-life versus pro-choice issues, on Tamil issues going on in Sri Lanka. On every worldwide issue, they’d taken a position,” Ferman says of the YFS, which operates with a $2-million budget. They rarely take the position he would take.
The Canadian Federation of Students—an umbrella organization for student unions—has been heavily criticized for rash advocacy using student funds. The national organization, with its provincial subsidiaries, lobbies on behalf of 600,000 student members across Canada. These “members,” who automatically gain that status if their student union is a member organization, each pay $4.01 per semester to the CFS. In 2010, that came to $3.7 million in membership fee revenue—money used to fund the not-for-profit’s advocacy work. Students also pay an average of $4 per semester to be members of their provincial CFS. That’s before student union fees, which average out at around $30 per student, depending on the school. CFS national chairperson David Molenhuis acknowledges that some of the national campaigns, such as its current effort to fight the Canadian Blood Services’ decision to ban gay men from donating blood, are hot issues—but he doesn’t think they’re controversial. “They attempt to address head-on issues that perhaps college and university administrators don’t feel comfortable addressing,” he says. Some students also feel uncomfortable with their fees going to such politically sensitive issues.
For example, last June, the CFS wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty joining the cry for a public inquiry into the “unprecedented curtailment of civil liberties” that took place at the G20. “The federation stands up for the rights of students to participate and to assemble publicly and to participate in demonstrations,” said the letter. “We defend the rights of students to mobilize in public, and the G20 is no exception.”
Some students at the University of Ottawa were upset to learn that not only does the CFS take a political stand on the G20, their own student union spent at least $1,000 to rent a coach bus to shuttle about 50 protesters to Toronto during the G20. Student Peter Flynn, who also heads up the University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives, blasted the expenditure as a “blatant misuse” of student fees. “I highly doubt that every single student who has to pay those fees would be happy to know their money was being spent to send a few individuals to protest for the weekend,” Flynn told the Ottawa Citizen.
York student Gregory Kay was also irked by his student union’s support for G20 protests. The YFS and the student union at the University of Toronto co-sponsored “Toronto vs. the G20: a teach-in.” Class included Black Bloc tactics, which ended up seeing storefronts and public property smashed during the summit in downtown Toronto. “That’s something most students don’t believe in at all,” says Kay, who is the business representative for the YFS board of directors. “Most students aren’t anti-capitalist. They’re not interested in civil disobedience.”
Of course, if students are unhappy with their student government, they aren’t doing much to change it. While voter turnout tends to be higher when contentious issues can be resolved with a ballot, the average voter turnout sits at between 25 and 30 per cent. Many students see student government as too divisive—or too inflexible—to even bother running. Ferman, for one, considered running for a seat on the executive in 2009, but couldn’t put his academic career on hold for a year as the bylaws dictate. He ran for—and won—a seat on the board of directors instead.
“It’s an interesting dichotomy—that the student president isn’t even a student,” he says. “There are lots of inherent problems with the organization, but the lack of flexibility is a major one.” In late August 2010, the university’s ombudsman released a report saying the student union’s electoral process needed a massive makeover, making recommendations Ferman believes might one day legitimize the organization. “Now the onus is on the student federation to take some of these recommendations to heart.”
Photo: Christinne Muschi/Reuters
Just what students have been asking for!
I am so, so excited I can barely contain myself.
At their semi-annual meeting in May, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) passed a motion to create their own national magazine focusing on post-secondary issues. All I can say is: it’s about time! Students have been pushing for something like this for a long, long time, and the CFS has obviously heard their cries. Two or more student publications at most universities simply won’t do! Fees need to be spent on another voice.
The CFS magazine will focus on “trends and changes to educational policies, issues and events that have a national scope and other issues that are of importance to the college and university system,” reports the CUP newswire.
The motion to create the magazine was initially drafted by York University’s students’ union. According to student union president Krisna Saravanamuttu, the publication will “focus on issues that are happening across the country in a way that mainstream media doesn’t reflect.”
Shelley Melanson, CFS deputy chairperson, added, “The idea is to actually provide space for student journalists who want to write about post-secondary education.” She said the goal is to work in collaboration with others to make sure coverage of student issues is given due justice.
Well, having written about student issues for years, I am more than tickled to hear about something new emerging on the higher ed beat. I’d like to welcome the publication by offering a few story ideas of my own. Please, CFS magazine, don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss some freelancing opportunities!
1. “Free Post-Secondary Education!”
No, silly! I don’t mean an article about student activists claiming to be “enslaved” by the institution and theatrically protesting with chains or gravestones or whatever it is they do. I mean a story about students who believe tuition fees should be abolished, and the number of admissions cut in favour of only those candidates who hold the most potential.
2. “Cross Campus Campaigning”
So-called CFS slates from one school often campaign for slates sympathetic to the CFS at another school. Let’s, first, acknowledge that this happens, then maybe write a line or two about it!
An article simply repeating the word, over and over.
4. “The Separatists”
Again, we’ll just start by admitting that schools that want to defederate actually exist. We’ll go from there.
-Photo by ZaCky
Students’ union says school received “persistent inquiries” about controversial vote
In yet another twist of York University’s fraught politics, the school’s student union is accusing two Conservative politicians — one federal, one provincial — of meddling in the union’s electoral process.
According to the York Federation of Students, 50 pages of e-mails obtained through a Freedom of Information request prove that federal MP Peter Kent and provincial MPP Peter Shurman tried to interfere with the group’s spring 2009 general elections.
During the controversial election, amid claims of voting irregularities from the losing slate, a more left-wing, pro-Palestinian group of students politicians beat out a more conservative, pro-Israel group. On appeal, the electoral board upheld the vote.
It was this appeal that prompted Kent and Shurman to send the e-mails, which both the YFS and the CFS say were inappropriate. According to the YFS, the e-mails reveal “persistent inquires” on behalf of the politicians into the election. This is, says the group, “part of a growing body of evidence that the federal and provincial Conservative parties are attempting to undermine democratic student decision-making.”
The group also alleges that Robert Tiffin, York’s vice-president of students, warned the group not to disqualify candidates who were caught violating the elections rules because the school and members of parliament “were watching the election closely.”
“The student elections were run in a fair and democratic manner and in accordance with our bylaws,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, YFS president, in a press release issued Monday morning. “The York administration and members of the Conservative Party have no right or authority to interfere in the elections of the students’ union simply because they disagree with student criticisms of their policies.”
However, Kent and Shurman told The Star’s Louise Brown that the allegations are absolute nonsense. The two insist they were merely seeking updates on behalf of their north Toronto constituents, many of whom are Jewish students who were concerned about growing anti-Semitism at the school.
Tiffin says the university treated the politicians’ e-mails as requests for information, not as political pressure. He says the school has no intention of reopening the vote, although he is encouraging the YFS to participate in a review of the school’s election processes by an external accounting firm.
Senior staff pass on trip to Saskatoon in order to serve York students
As many of you might know, most student journalists in the country are presently in Saskatoon attending the general conference of the Canadian University Press.
There is one paper that is a notable exception, which has only a small delegation and is without its editor-in-chief and senior news staff. The Excalibur, York University’s student newspaper, has left its key staff in Toronto in order to provide timely information to York students as the CUPE 3903 strike drags on.
The Excalibur has remembered who foots the bill for their operation and salaries. This can be contrasted to great affect with another organization (with a much larger budget) who took advantage of the strike to abandon York students for a junket to Ottawa.
Students are set to cross picket line
Well, there’s been rumbling about this for some time, but now they’ve finally pulled the trigger. The Senate at York University has agreed to an exemption for Osgoode Law generally, and classes will resume on Dec. 1. Note this does not mean the strike is over – simply that Osgoode will resume classes in spite of it.
Osgoode is able to resume classes because they employ almost no contract faculty (in the sense that would make them members of CUPE 3903) and do not rely on TAs. Of course the few classes that are taught by members of CUPE 3903 won’t be resuming.
All the same, CUPE has a right to picket the grounds. Speaking only for myself, I don’t think I could cross that picket line. I believe too strongly in union politics for that to happen. Apparently there’s some Senate policy or other that covers this situation and students who simply won’t cross the line. In that case students are being directed to an Assistant Dean to discuss the situation. I’m interested to know what options they’ll be offered, if any.
Of course there are many compelling stories out there about students who stand to be adversely affected by this strike. And some international students at Schulich already enjoy exceptions. As a law student myself I understand some of what’s at stake for students of Osgoode. Those in second year have real concerns about their summer employment positions. Those who are graduating this year have even greater issues with getting licensed. And yet … the very nature of a strike rests on the idea of applying pressure. That has got to include some inconvenience or else it’s meaningless.
The Osgoode student caucus recently circulated a letter to their members supporting this plan to resume classes. I suspect that support is genuine and reflects the will of most students. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of that letter to link to, but it mostly just describes the plan as it was finally approved.
Osgoode enjoys a reputation as a progressive law school. Among close to 1,000 law students I’d expect there must be some who have qualms about crossing a picket line. I’d love to hear from some of them. I appreciate that students are under great pressure. I can even understand a considered decision to cross the line. But I want to see some indication that these students appreciate the great significance of their actions. If even Osgoode law students are dismissive of the meaning of a picket line, then who’s left to care?
I sincerely hope this issue never gets tested at all. I hope the strike is over before Monday and everyone goes back to class. I don’t necessarily agree with CUPE 3903 in their positions on this strike or think that their demands are reasonable. But I have a great respect for the right to strike and all that it implies. Like many rights, it can’t only apply to people we agree with and to causes we approve of. People died for the right to collectively bargain and the right to strike. I can’t help but feel that even if it fucks up my year a little bit, that’s a price I should be willing to pay in order to respect the history of the labour movement.
Questions are welcome at email@example.com. I use them for the advising content of this blog. Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.
The CFS says the Excalibur story is in error. What’s the alleged error? Well, that’s what the CFS still hasn’t explained.
Yesterday, I pointed out an interesting article in the York University student newspaper stating the Canadian Federation of Students gave $2,500 to CUPE 3903. The following is an email exchange with CFS spokesperson Ian Boyko, who apparently has a problem with the story.
At 19:27 EST, Maclean’s OnCampus received this email:
You make several false statements on your web-diary at the following link:
A false statement is also repeated on the main Oncampus page, increasing the harm to our organisation. The Canadian Federation of Students has done nothing you describe in this entry. Please delete it immediately and place the retraction and apology in an equally conspicuous location.
Government Relations Coordinator
Canadian Federation of Students
We emailed Boyko from my cellphone with the following at 19:51 EST:
Can you please be specific. What is false?
His response, received at 20:25:
Thank-you for your quick reply. Am I to understand that you have easy access to your entries for retraction this evening?
Each claim made by you about the Canadian Federation of Students and CUPE/CUPE 3903 in the entry (including the title) described in my previous email is false.
On the main Oncampus page, a link to the offending entry repeats your false statements.
Please delete it immediately and place the retraction and apology in equally conspicuous locations (e-diary and front Oncampus page).
Failure on your behalf to act promptly to remove false statements will result in greater damages to the Canadian Federation of Students.
Government Relations Coordinator
Canadian Federation of Students
We emailed Mr. Boyko this morning at 11:33 EST asking him to be specific, noting that The Excalibur is standing by the article, which remains online:
The Excalibur is standing by the story and you have not provided me with any details on how the story is wrong.
Could you please be specific: What exactly is inaccurate about The Excalibur story?
Reporter/Blogger – Maclean’s On Campus
No response has been received. Yet.
We look forward to hearing what CFS has to say.
“When contacted by the Fulcrum, YFS President Hamid Osman declined to comment.”
According to a report in The Excalibur, the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario* has given CUPE 3903 a $2,500 donation which is assisting the union to provide free lunches to striking TAs, GAs, and contract faculty at York. I bet York students are thrilled to learn their student fees are helping keep them out [...]
According to a report in The Excalibur, the Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario* has given CUPE 3903 a $2,500 donation which is assisting the union to provide free lunches to striking TAs, GAs, and contract faculty at York.
I bet York students are thrilled to learn their student fees are helping keep them out of class.
The Canadian Federation of Students national headquarters says it was the Ontario branch, not the “Canadian Federation of Students.” READ MORE HERE
Yesterday, it was revealed the York Federation of Students president had left his campus to campaign for the Canadian Federation of Students in Ottawa. (Read the article here) Today, the YFS explained why they went to Ottawa. Jeremy Salter, YFS’ executive director, wrote on Facebook: “We had made a commitment to be in Ottawa long [...]
Yesterday, it was revealed the York Federation of Students president had left his campus to campaign for the Canadian Federation of Students in Ottawa. (Read the article here) Today, the YFS explained why they went to Ottawa. Jeremy Salter, YFS’ executive director, wrote on Facebook:
“We had made a commitment to be in Ottawa long before the strike started. We evaluated the situation and divided our resources to have people both in Ottawa and Toronto. We also traveled [sic] back to Toronto as required. Our office is closed and we are not on the picket line. We have been ding all that we can to address student concerns. Our table has been set up since last week and we have only now received confirmation to have meetings with both parties. Should you have any other questions please let me know.”
As a journalist, I often have to cancel on prior commitments to cover more important stories. That’s life; things change. I can understand the anger that students feel about the misplaced priorities of the YFS executive. However, let’s put aside the priorization issue for a second. This statement raises a few question:
- If the prior committment to the CFS and SFUO was so important, why didn’t the YFS inform the student body? “We also traveled [sic] back to Toronto as required.”
- When did they leave and when are they coming back?
- Who paid for the flights?
- How many extra plane tickets were used to travel back and forth during the SFUO referendum?
- Who paid for these tickets?
Additional:Wassim asks even better questions below:
A few more relevant questions…
- Are you still being paid while you are campaigning in Ottawa?
- Where are you staying while you campaign in Ottawa, and who is paying for your accommodations, if any.
- Do you receive money for food or other expenses incurred while you are in Ottawa? If so, who is incurring these costs?
- The strike began on November 6th. The CFS/SFUO campaign began on November 7th. What kind of commitment did you make to “be in Ottawa”, and to whom?
- What are you doing in Ottawa exactly, that could not have been done by other CFS Members, and more importantly, University of Ottawa students?
YFS executives lobby for CFS referendum; students outraged
The strike by teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and contract faulty at York University is going into its third week, yet there is still no end in sight as 50,000 students are left wondering if anyone is representing their interests.
On Monday, students held a rally to demand action from the government, university administration, CUPE and the York Federation of Students to end the strike.
Many of them expressed disappointment when their student body president Hamid Osman did not appear at the rally to speak to his constituents. Many of them tried to find answers, but with the York Federation of Students office closed in solidarity with CUPE, they were unable to find Osman.
Osman told students Sunday, in a posting on the YFS website, he was “doing everything possible to bring York University and CUPE 3903 back to the table in order to end the strike.”
Early Wednesday morning, students found out Osman had not been in Toronto. Osman, and members of his staff and executive, are taking advantage of the closure to work for the Canadian Federation of Students in Ottawa.
What should be done about hazing on campus?
- It should be banned outright (43%)
- If students want to join a frat, that's their choice (39%)
- It should be monitored and regulated (18%)
The YFS executive joined dozens of student union executives in taking time away from their duties and flew to Ottawa.
Students were not informed of Osman’s absence and nothing in his letter indicated he was leaving Toronto.
The CFS is currently engaged in a referendum to gain the membership of the undergraduate student body at the University of Ottawa. The CFS will receive about $378,000 per year in membership fees from students at UOttawa if they win the referendum. Voting is underway and ends Thursday.
“They are going to have to explain to many angry students why they promised to support us and do everything they could to end this strike and instead went off on a side project in Ottawa,” says Lyndon Koopmans of the group YorkNotHostage.com, which organized Monday’s rally. “It’s like firefighters rescuing a cat from a tree instead of taking care of a blazing fire across town.”
Classes are still canceled for more than 50,000 students, tensions are rising
It almost felt like a regular academic day at York University, with multiple rallies occurring at suburban Toronto campus. However, instead of the usual Israeli/Palestinian rallies, students were rallying against or for a strike by CUPE 2903, which has kept 50,000 students out of classes for the better part of two weeks.
In the morning, about 200 York undergraduate students held a rally calling for government-imposed binding arbitration to end the strike and get them back in their classes.
The rally, organized by a student group that calls itself YorkNotHostage.com, was designed to give students the opportunity to make their voices heard.
“We don’t really have a say,” says Catherine Divaris, a fifth-year kinesiology student who helped organize the rally. “We are not at the table.”
Divaris, like many students, is concerned about what the consequences of a long strike may have on her future.
“I’ve applied to law schools already. I’m in my final year. I have to work in the summer to make money to be able to afford my future education,” she says. “It’s not fair for a union of 3,200 members and an administration of 10 or 11 people to decide the fate of 50,000 students.”
Students were encouraged to write their stories on a large banner placed on a wall. Many students expressed apprehension about finding summer jobs if the strike results in classes being pushed back into May.
The students have succeeded in garnering the attention of at least one provincial politician. Peter Shurman, Progressive Conservative MPP for Thornhill who is calling on the provincial Liberal government to pass back-to-work legislation, spoke to the students.
“My office was besieged telephone calls and emails as this strike has unfolded,” said Shurman. “People have very long memories: they remember there was a 11-week strike seven years ago and they don’t want to see a repeat.”
In order to get them, they had to sign a lame petition
The York Federation of Students is celebrating it’s latest scheme; figuring out how to get 23,000 students to sign a petition asking the government give money to lower tuition.
Instead of just asking students to sign the petition; The Excalibur reports that students had to sign the petition in order to get their day planners.
This is a new low, even by the standards of the York Federation of Students.
Make you wonder how many students are really asking the government to give them more money?
York Federation of Students censors abortion debate at their campus; protests freedom of speech at another university
Free speech is again the centre of controversy at York University after the students’ union canceled an on-campus abortion debate last week only four hours before the event was scheduled to commence. This has some students accusing the York Federation of Students of quashing open dialogue around issues they disagree with.
“We would not have a debate over something that is racist or homophobic,” said Gilary Massa, vice-president equity of the York Federation of Students. “This debate is sexist … when it comes to free speech there is a line. … They are talking about taking away women’s rights. We would not allow a debate asking if women beating should be allowed.”
The club hosting the event, the York Students for Bioethical Awareness (SBA), invited Jose Ruba from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Awareness to represent the pro-life side in the debate. The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Awareness (WARNING: graphic content) main page features a graphic comparing abortion to the Holocaust accompanied with the statement: “When personhood is denied, the unthinkable becomes reality.” The CCBEA is behind the controversial “Genocide Awareness Project” and its large images of aborted fetuses alongside images of the Holocaust or ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.
But the graphic images were not cited by the student government as a reason for shutting the event down. Rather, the reasoning seems to be purely ideological.
“I was told in a meeting by members of the York Federation of Students that debating abortion is comparable to debating whether a man should be allowed to beat his wife,” said Margaret Fung, co-president of SBA. “They said that there is freedom of speech to a limit, and that abortion is not an issue to debate. … They were opposed to our message and they stopped this opportunity for us to express our viewpoint in the context of a debate.”
Amir Mohareb, president of the York Debating Society and moderator of the canceled debate, was surprised by the late cancellation. “[The YFS executives] were openly excited about the debate and ready to cheer on the side they support in the debate,” he said. He was initially concerned about the plan for the debate and declined the invitation to moderate at first. “We were concerned about the original plan and responded with a list of conditions to make sure it was a fair and proper debate,” said Mohareb. “They [SBA] accepted our terms.”
Mohareb and Fung have both requested a written explanation of the cancellation. Mohareb said there may have been good reason to cancel the debate but he hasn’t heard it yet: “A number of different executives said that a debate on abortion may be inappropriate to hold in the student centre.” Mohareb said that if the cancellation was because of the political issue being discussed, it would be an unacceptable attack on free speech.
However, Mohareb said that the anti-abortion speaker wanted to hand out materials featuring the controversial images. Mohareb suggested that if the YFS had opposed the debate on the ground of the offensive materials, that might be understandable. But above all, he urged the student government to explain their actions.
But in interview with Maclean’s Massa maintained that it was the topic of the debate that led them to put a stop to it. She repeatedly compared the act of banning abortion to beating women.
Although both sides are deeply entrenched in their positions, the YFS has been somewhat inconsistent on free speech in the last week. The day after the cancellation of the debate, Massa led a delegation of York students to McMaster University to protest what they called an infringement on free speech.
The YFS joined other Toronto students unions in condemning McMaster University and the McMaster Students Union for censoring a poster featuring the controversial phrase “Israeli Apartheid” and a graphic, violent image. At the rally, the Toronto unions accused the university and students union of shutting down free speech at McMaster. They called on McMaster University and students union to allow for absolute free political speech on the campus.
Massa doesn’t see the connection between the two incidents. She said that the censorship at McMaster was about a political issue while the York debate would have amounted to “hate speech.”
When you can’t find student protesters locally, you just call the “solidarity” movement and they will bus the professionals in
This Friday, McMaster University will be the scene of a Toronto-organized protest in favour of useless rhetoric.
McMaster University denied the Palestinian “solidarity movement” the ability to hang banners screaming “Israeli Apartheid.”
This attack on inflammatory and inaccurate words cannot be tolerated. How dare the university require truth in advertising!
Not to worry, the York Federation of Students (Canadian Federation of Students Local 68) and the Ryerson Students Union (Canadian Federation of Students Local 24) will not tolerate this action.
They are paying for buses to ship protesters from Toronto to McMaster University on Friday to let the administration of McMaster know what they think.
Great, just what McMaster needs, outsiders coming in and spreading their intolerant rhetoric.
This year has been different from past years in terms of the actions of the “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights” group. In previous years, they stuck to spreading their literature, hosting nights condemning Israel, but always maintained a level of decorum.
This year, the leadership is more radical and in your face. It’s a shame, I used to be able to respectfully disagree with them. I used to be able to accept them spreading their propaganda as they were careful to not make other students uncomfortable. This year, that seems to be their goal.
In terms of the decision by the university Provost to not allow the display of the phrase “Israeli Apartheid,” I believe it was the right decision. Israel is not an apartheid state. We all know that. There must be some standard of truth on a campus.
What effect did the decision have on the “solidarity movement” – none. They were still able to hold their event, they were still able to rant and rave, their funds were not cut. In short, beyond having a requirement for some level of honesty, the university did not stop this group from holding their event.
The group appealed to the campus human rights office. The campus human rights office stated of the university decision: “The university has taken the position that literature which refers to “Israeli apartheid” and activities promoted under the banner, “Israeli Apartheid Week” are unacceptable. The university takes the position that this phrase is in violation of the university’s efforts to ensure that all people will be treated with dignity and tolerance.”
In short, the human rights office agreed that they were not being discriminated against. The McMaster office is extremely independent of the administration. This should have told the “solidarity movement” that this time they were in the wrong.
Instead, they have gone out and requested that other “solidarity” groups come to McMaster to help them. (The radical element on campus is small and most students at McMaster prefer respectful tolerate debate.) So, this Friday, they will ship in protestors by the bus load. Rant and rave about how horrible everyone else is. Demand the privilege of being intolerant and call all kinds of people names. Should be an interesting show to watch.
All of this will be made possible using student fees paid by students at Ryerson and York. It’s nice to know that Locals 24 and 68 are looking after their students.