Home News “Political activism is no excuse for racism”: York U president

“Political activism is no excuse for racism”: York U president

by Archives March 31, 2009

TORONTO (CUP) – York University President Mamdouh Shoukri has released a statement condemning anti-Semitism and Islamophobia on campus.
The Keele campus at the Toronto school has recently become a battleground for people of different races and cultural backgrounds.
The impromptu Feb. 11 protest that saw pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students clash further increased tensions between student groups on campus.
“Political activism is no excuse for racism or hatred of any kind,” Shoukri said in the March 19 statement.
He stated that it was important to understand that community members have the right to express their views, within the law, without fear of intimidation or harassment.
“Disturbing reports have been circulating in the media of students being subjected to actions and remarks which have felt to be inspired by anti-Semitism,” Shoukri stated.
He stressed that the York University community utterly condemns any racist acts, including those that can be considered anti-Semitic or Islamophobic in nature.
“Universities exist for the free exchange of ideas and sometimes can feel uncomfortable. But ideas are what universities are all about and ideas can only flourish in an atmosphere free of intolerance, hatred, and harassment,” Shoukri continued.
Shoukri appointed the new Task Force on Student Life, Learning and Community – chaired by VP Academic Patrick Monahan – to deal with the racial tensions that exist on campus.
The Task Force’s mandate is to enforce standards of civil discourse in order to ease some of those tensions.
Monahan, currently the dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, says the Task Force will be there to improve student life and promote dialogue on campus, as well as to encourage debate that is more inclusive of various groups.
“Half of the members of the task force will be students, but we want to reach out broadly to the student community,” Monahan said.
“There has been an unbelievably positive response for students to be a part of the task force. If people want to debate issues and want to have discussions, let’s find a forum to do that. Let’s find a way to do that so that people won’t feel like they are being prevented from [having] these kinds of debates.”
Despite the university administration’s efforts to improve the social situation on campus, incidents inspiring racial tensions continue to occur. A swastika was found in a bathroom stall at Scott Library on March 19.
Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, says these types of incidents are very isolated and that such acts – acts committed by one person – do not reflect on York’s other community members.
“This is a situation where one idiot is trying to put up their garbage on York University’s property,” Bilyk said.

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