Concordia no longer needs to worry about being in international headlines, for the moment. (Yes, we even made it onto CNN). The moratorium has been lifted and students can now protest something else. It is about time that the Board of Governors (BoG) realized it was trampling on the liberties guaranteed by Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
BoG ought to be commended for lifting the ban, but it is quite clear that the BoG was acting on outside pressure rather than on the principle that freedom of speech must be protected. Media coverage focused mostly on the administration’s denial of students’ right to freedom of speech. The fact that MP’s Svend Robinson, Libby Davies and activist Judy Rebick hopped on the CSU’s bandwagon gave the administration’s credibility on the issue of the moratorium a great big whack. What was an even bigger blow to the administration was the fact that there were three news vans with satellites reporting live. Just last year the CSU’s credibility was rock bottom because of the handbook fiasco and botched byelections.
Another aspect of the board’s decision that are welcomed are the conditions that came along with the lifting of the moratorium. These conditions of respecting freedom of speech, non-violence and the appointment of an advisor to supervise the activities of the Middle East are something that was lacking at Concordia.
For the last three years some displays on the Middle East have provoked loud shouting matches and in one case, scared security in the lobby of the Hall Building into closing its protective shutter. There are other instances of this kind of intimidation and there is no place for this kind of behaviour on campus. Those violating these conditions should be fined.
Hillel has expressed a concern that tensions are still high at Concordia and that Jewish students feel uncomfortable coming to school. Tensions do not dissipate overnight, but at least the conditions will help alleviate tensions, since the knowledge of being supervised will have people on their best behaviour. Nonetheless, the tension will still be present.
The best way to handle tension is to have meetings with the administration, CSU, SPHR and Hillel, and coming up with a concrete plan to allow students to express themselves in a respectable manner. Also, Hillel and SPHR ought to have a joint display, since the co-operation will foster more understanding and respect.
Lifting the moratorium is one step towards making Concordia a better place for all students by allowing freedom of speech and it allows the university to salvage some remnants of its reputation.
But what will happen now? That depends entirely on what is done by the administration to further diffuse tensions. Considering Concordia’s track record, the waters will be calm for now, but will most likely flare-up again.