Atrium space a source of conflict
By Brendan Howe
The University Community Centre was the centre of controversy yesterday when the Arab Students' Association held an event which caused arguments in the atrium throughout the day, a call for police intervention and 30 students to occupy the University Students' Council office with complaints.
The activity stemmed from what was originally planned to be a "Peace Day" with the participation of both the ASA and the Jewish Students' Union but the booking of the atrium for that event was cancelled by the ASA and problems ensued.
Originally a joint booking was made for the atrium space by the two groups but when the ASA membership voted not to hold an event in conjunction with the JSU it was cancelled. The space was then booked by the ASA for their event.
Ryan Parks, president of the USC, said the JSU then booked a table for yesterday which brought concerns about a potential conflict because of the groups' opposing views. A meeting was held Friday and the groups were given the weekend to resolve the issue. The issue was not resolved and the USC cancelled the JSU booking on Monday.
Parks said the reservation was cancelled because the space was first booked by the ASA and the two groups have different interests. "The USC is not in favour of competing programming in the same place."
Taymoor Marmarchi, president of the ASA, said the event was intended to inform students of the Arab problem in Palestine. He added this was the reason the space was cancelled for "Peace Day" because the ASA first wanted to have an educational day.
"We wanted to make everyone aware of the situation before we went on," said Mayssoun Khatib, a second-year social science student and active ASA member. "In the future we would be more than happy to have a 'Peace Day'."
Elana Lavine, president of the JSU, said the problem yesterday stemmed from the USC's policy on bookings. She added the USC has to have an objective policy which says a club has various rights without regard to religious affiliation.
Several members of the JSU also took offense to some of the signs being displayed by the ASA such as those which said Israeli soldiers were oppressing Palestinians and a group of about 30 went to the USC office to complain, some eventually meeting with Parks.
Michael Gottlieb, the incoming political chair for the JSU, was one of these students. "They're directly offending Israel," he said.
It is not the right of the USC to censor groups on campus as long as they abide by the law, Parks said. "We book the space, but the issue and the dialogue about this type of material should exist between the JSU and the ASA."
Parks added that information being distributed at the event was not in affiliation with the ASA and the person doing it was told to stop.