Jewish groups urge those displaying Palestine flags to be deported to Saskatchewan

June 18, 2009

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

‘Anti-Israel Sentiment’; Recent incidents at school have left many ‘shocked and shaken’

By Giuseppe Valiante

York University teachers should be prohibited from expressing personal political views unrelated to the course they are teaching, according to a report from a commission of Toronto-area Jewish groups on improving campus life for Jewish students.

The commission, composed of the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, Hillel of Greater Toronto, Hasbara at York and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, compiled hundreds of submissions from students, faculty and Jewish community members after recent events at York “have left many members of our community shocked and shaken,” the report cited.

The final report cites episodes of “intimidation, harassment, ridicule and virulent anti-Israel sentiment” on the York campus over the past year.

Howard English, the UJA of Greater Toronto’s vice-president for communications, said the incidents have prompted Jewish donors to York to express concern to the administration. He added there is a history of anti-Israel expression at York.

“We’re talking about off-hand comments, or scurrilous comments … unwarranted or unjustified political personal opinion that is not based on fact or is unrelated to the course that an instructor is teaching,” Mr. English said.

“We had one case of a [teaching assistant] who told a student who was wearing a Israel Defence Forces T-shirt to never come into his class again with that T-shirt on,” Mr. English said.

The report asks York to establish a confidential hotline for students to report “abuse of the podium” incidents. It also recommends that York implement several other measures, including providing school security forces with “enhanced training in order to deal more effectively with disruptive events and individuals” and to “rigorously define the academic standards expected of all university-sponsored conferences.”

The report also recommends the university should no longer allow Vari Hall, a central meeting place for students, to be booked for political pusposes, for the universitiy to “increase the severity of sanctions for those who repeatedly violate the code of conduct,” and “empower York Security to issue reprimands … that would remain on a student’s academic transcript for a period of not less than two years.”

This list of recommendations was delivered to the York University Task Force on Student Life, Learning and Community, which was created in March by university president Mamdouh Shoukri to improve the atmosphere on campus.

Patrick Monahan, the dean of Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the task force, was not available for comment yesterday. The York University Faculty Association did not return calls as of press time.

It’s been a tough 50th anniversary for York University. Three of its unions went on strike for months last fall, delaying classes and final exams, the university’s endowment is down by 18% and recent reports cite that 7% fewer Ontario high-school students accepted a full-time, first-year spot at York than last year.

Mr. English said York might feel a financial strain if Jewish students continue to feel intimidated.

“Well, we know that many Jewish donors to the university are very concerned … many Jewish donors have spoken in the most honest terms, in the most candid terms with [Mr. Shoukri] and other administration officials,” he said.

Mr. English said that he is not aware of a “mass withdrawl” of donations at this point, but said “the longer an atmosphere exists at York which is considered by many Jewish students to be intimidating or hostile, the greater the risk of donors withdrawing funds.”