The university senate voted against the emergency powers of the rector and the moratorium placed on Middle East issues in a meeting held last Friday.
The motion to revoke emergency powers began a series of debates surrounding the events of Sept. 9 and resulted in a secret ballot that favoured the motion 14 votes to 12.
Concordia Rector Frederick Lowy argued that “we need emergency powers if there is an emergency; they are only to be used in exceptional cases.” His statements were attacked with arguments concerning democracy within a university atmosphere.
One senator said it was not the rector’s job to remedy such situations and that the police should be left in charge in such extreme cases of emergency. Finally, it was stated that emergency powers create a climate of fear on the behalf of students who wish to openly express their opinions.
CSU VP Academic and Advocacy Ralph Lee opened the second debate regarding the moratorium by stating that it was put in place due to an emergency, but that there is no longer a need for it because the state of emergency has expired. He added that while there was tabling for both sides of the issue a few days after the events, violence did not ensue. “The moratorium has thrown fire onto the issue and this may promote violence,” said Lee. “Handing out pamphlets in no way endangers students; it’s a free country.”
Senator and Concordia Provost Jack Lightstone said he wished “the tables were as benign as Lee presents”, but suggested they have become a point for confrontation. Lightstone said that although free speech and debate are part of university life, they can trigger violence in a situation such as this one.
According to university officials, the moratorium was set up to allow the situation to simmer down quietly, as a “cooling off period” intended to keep things under control. But in light of last Monday’s rally and numerous student demonstrations concerning free speech it seems to have had the opposite effect.
Several letters have been sent to the rector from different organizations concerning his decision to impose the moratorium. Although Lowy said that most were in favour of the moratorium, one from Amnesty International Canada said that the “cooling off period” was a dangerous way of dealing with issues of violence, and that it goes against the fundamental human right of freedom of expression.
One senator also stated the fact that the moratorium was only in effect in certain places and not everywhere, hence allowing for free debate in other parts of student life. He was quickly reminded that the Mezzanine and lobby of the Hall Building are the central sites for discussion among students and the purpose of the moratorium was to avoid potential conflict in these two areas.
The issue was finally resolved in a vote of 12 in favour of abandoning the moratorium and seven against it, after senators had started to trickle out the door. To Lee, the results signalled a victory. “The results of the senate send a clear message to the Board of Governors that they have to lift the moratorium.”
Also discussed was the motion condemning the ban on tabling. One student senator urged the committee to remember that the livelihood of many organizations and student clubs will disintegrate if they can not table in the Hall Building. However, quorum was lost before the motion could be voted upon.