Concordia University’s Board of Governors, the highest decision-making body on campus, has approved a moratorium on events on campus related to the conflict in the Middle East until at least mid-December.
In a closed meeting on Sept. 18 that lasted more than two hours, the Board extended and redefined the cooling-off period and voted in two new measures regarding student related activities in the Hall Building.
The two new policies were detailed in a press conference made several hours after the meeting adjourned. Public meetings dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are prohibited, as are exhibits, information tables, leaflets and posters until Dec. 15, at which point the situation will be reviewed by the administration.
Taking the cooling-off period one step further, the Board banned all student organizations from tabling in the Mezzanine and the lobby of the Hall Building.
These new measures have Concordia Student Union (CSU) president Sabine Friesinger worried: “The fact of the matter is that the two groups, whether they are tabling or not, exist here on campus,” she said. “I don’t think that this cooling-off period is the way to approach it and solve the problem, it’s only covering it. I would say that a better way is to sit the two groups [Hillel and SPHR] down and establish a protocol. We should establish a dialogue.”
Although Concordia Rector Frederick Lowy would not comment directly to the press about the moratorium, a message he posted on the Concordia Web site said the measures were necessary to protect the university’s core activities: “They are not political activism nor the use of campus to advance positions in international conflicts,” he wrote. “Core activities for students are their academic programs and, for the administration, faculty and staff, the provision of an environment that facilitates learning and scholarship.”
In a press release issued in response to the moratorium, Hillel Montreal president Yoni Petel described the situation as “cowardly,” and “putting the victims of the violent acts on the same footing as those who perpetrated those acts.”
Despite the group’s opposition to the moratorium, Concordia Hillel co-president Noah Joseph said they would abide by the policy.
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) has also been openly critical of the administration’s new regulations but has chosen to abide by them. When the moratorium came into effect, they immediately removed their tables from the Hall Building and removed many of their posters and leaflets from nearby walls and bulletin boards.
The cooling-off period will also be difficult for student associations not connected with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many groups rely on tabling on the Mezzanine and in the lobby to increase their visibility, attract new members and get students involved in their activities.
“When we have out table set up we get people stopping by who otherwise wouldn’t know about us,” said Teny Sarkissian, a member of the Armenian Students’ Association. “We do have people stopping by our office, but definitely not as many. This is definitely going to hurt.”