York suspends Middle East groups
By Laura Katsirdakis
York University has suspended the privileges of Middle East-related
campus clubs after the Jewish group Hillel held a vigil last
week, and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights held a competing
protest on the same day that included a demonstration of Israeli
“We received notification [on] Saturday that pending
a review, we were suspended,” said Talia Klein, director
of Hillel at York. Results of the review would be announced
by Friday, she said.
“We can only speculate [on the reason for suspension] — we
have requested an explanation,” she said.
“We are hurt and shocked — we’ve seen a
lot of protests at the university that were not acted upon,” Klein
said. “There is a double standard — other groups
have protested without permission.”
“We did have permission to be in our space — we
thought we had an understanding [with administration],” she
said, adding Hillel was upset to see that SPHR’s “guerrilla
theatre” was not prevented by administration.
York SPHR could not be reached for comment.
“Vari Hall is an academic building — all clubs
were notified that as of Feb. 1, 2004, there would be no events
held in it,” said Nancy White, a York spokesperson.
“In the interest of free speech, the university allowed
the [Hillel] vigil — SPHR did not attempt to book any
space,” she said, explaining that the two demonstrations
“The Hillel students were waiting for [SPHR] when they
arrived,” White said, adding administration had to deal
with separating the two groups, both of which refused to leave. “There
was no police intervention, no violence.
“The rules are there and these students know the rules — we
cannot allow a small number of students to [disregard] the
rules and disrupt academic functioning,” she added.
According to York Federation of Students’ President
Paul Cooper, some groups who were at the protest were not sanctioned,
and others who were not participating have been suspended by
the university. The Young Zionist Partnership participated,
but has not been disciplined, and a pro-Israeli club called
Generations was not in attendance, but has still been suspended,
“We want to make sure that the university has the flexibility
to ensure that campus rallies are not disruptive to the community.
But to do this, they need a clear set of guidelines — something
which they have continually failed to implement in the past,” Cooper
“Hillel as an organization did nothing wrong,” he
said, adding it was individual members who chose to confront
“The more you silence them, the more they resort to extremes,” said
Randa B. Mouammar, campaign manager for Western’s SPHR.
“Each university deals with administration of clubs
differently; in our case, the student council administers them,” said
Adrienne Kennedy, the University Students’ Council VP-campus
issues. “If [opposing clubs] want to hold an event they
must do it on different days.