Last week Concordia’s Board of Governors (BoG), the highest decision-making body in the university, voted to extend the moratorium on public discussion on the Middle-East until Dec. 15. The reasoning behind this decision is to calm pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian tensions on campus.
The moratorium includes postering, tabling, rallies and lectures on anything relating to the Middle-East. Also, other student groups and associations on campus are banned from setting up tables in the lobby or Mezzanine in the Hall Building. These two areas are where the most amount of students pass by and this prevents any club association from getting more exposure.
This moratorium is an attack on freedom of speech and will not solve Israeli-Palestinian tensions on campus. Most likely this decision will only heighten tensions and throw Concordia back into the limelight of the media. Not only that, but student groups will protest this moratorium causing more headaches for the administration.
Other student groups who have nothing to do with the Middle East are being punished. That is totally unfair. One way of cooling tension after Sept. 9 is allowing the status quo of information tables. If students feel as if everything is back to normal and have a way to express their frustration then things will be calmer.
Now is the time when students need to talk and exchange ideas on the recent events and figure out how to move forward. Dialogue between pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians is needed to relieve tensions and can be done through meetings between a mediator and these groups. Rector Frederick Lowy has said that he will meet with both sides – he needs to do this now.
Part of being at a university is being able to debate controversial topics in the open. It is often university students, who become aware about issues through studying, that get involved in issues that concern society. Debates on issues bring about change in society. University is a place where debate is meant and should happen. Debate is priceless and also very important to the education of students.
It is the place where young people are shaped and build their character. Every student must be allowed to have access to debate. It is up to the student to choose whether he/she will take part or listen. That is the choice of each individual student and they should be free to make this choice. That is why many people immigrate to Canada, to speak freely.
Another decision that the BoG took concerns the new power the Rector has in expelling students in extreme cases. No longer does the code of Rights and Responsibilities deal with student discipline in exceptional cases.
Rector Lowy has the power to expel a student. A student may appeal this decision and will be reviewed by a committee of the BoG. This process has flaws – it is not objective, but authoritarian. If the behaviour is extreme, why not let the courts decide? Don’t the courts deal with criminal offences? They would be a much more objective and fair alternative. Moreover, courts are public. This is setting a dangerous precedent: leaving the decision of whether a student can stay to only one person.
The administration must lift the moratorium in order to gain some of its credibility. They allowed former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come and speak to students, citing freedom of speech as a justification, and yet they will not allow students to speak on the issue. This is a contradiction.
Having one person deal with the actions of student who behaved inappropriately must be left to the courts, which is their domain. The courts will be able to come up with a fair punishment for students who did not behave appropriately on Sept. 9.