March 24, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 91  

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York suspends Middle East groups

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

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 checkpoint.

“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 clashed.

“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, he explained.

“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 said.

“Hillel as an organization did nothing wrong,” he said, adding it was individual members who chose to confront SPHR.
“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.



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