Amidst the varied reactions surrounding the statement of solidarity with Palestine made by three York student unions, York released a new announcement on Oct. 20.
The announcement states the unions are suspected of breaching their responsibility under the regulation regarding student organizations and could face repercussions if they fail to take “remedial actions” or prove that no breach has occurred.
According to the university, the potential breach includes the unions’ failure to follow the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion alongside their failure to operate in an open, accessible, and non-discriminatory manner.
The “remedial actions” consist of the unions retracting their statement and issuing a public statement to confirm they neither endorse nor support antisemitism or any form of discrimination. Additionally, they need to acknowledge the harm their statement has caused to community members. The university also calls for the executives from each student union to resign from their positions and for an immediate by-election to fill the vacant positions.
“Each student union must take the remedial action required by the University, or state in writing that their position is that they have not breached the regulation, by no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25,” the statement further notes.
If the student unions state they have not breached any regulations, a due process hearing will be held. If it is found that a breach has occurred, the unions may face serious consequences, including the university withdrawing each union’s recognition.
“The University affirms the right of students and other community members to express political views, including support for the Israeli and/or Palestinian people, the University has condemned this statement noting that freedom of speech is not absolute,” the statement reads.
York’s previous announcement on Oct. 18 said the unions were undertaking “internal governance processes” and were supposed to reply to the administration on Oct. 19. But the lack of response from the unions to York’s admin prompted this recent announcement from the university.
The solidary statement released last week by the York Federation of Students (YFS), Glendon College Student Union (GCSU), and York University Graduate Student Association (YUGSA) said: “In a strong act of resistance, the Palestinian people tore down and crossed the illegitimate border fence erected by the settler-colonial apartheid state of so-called Israel.”
“These events serve as a reminder that resistance against colonial violence is justified and necessary. This is “decolonization” and “land-back” actualized as we continue to see the Palestinian people stand firm in their resistance against their oppressors,” the statement read.
Students have varying responses to the statement. A student from the Socialist Fightback was handing out flyers at central square last Monday. When asked about the recent statement made by YFS and others, the student had this to say:
“I’m glad that the student union is coming out to say they stand with Palestinians … They need to go a bit further and say that right now on campus, we can do something. We can call for our teachers, as students in our classrooms, and talk about the real history.
“The administration has been harassing us … They made a statement in response condemning the student unions, saying their solidarity is equivalent to supporting terrorism. This is disgusting … all these imperialist powers around the world [are] giving arms and resources to continue the slaughter,” the student further adds.
Others have expressed strong sentiments against the statement. One student who wishes to remain anonymous says: “I have friends and family who were murdered. And that statement that was given out by YFS was beyond pro-Hamas, it was beyond inflammatory.
“They called the tearing down of this “illegitimate fence” of “so-called Israel,” a strong act of resistance. And they proceeded not to explain what happened after they tore down this fence, which was they came into Israel and they murdered, beheaded, tortured, burned, innocent civilians, some of which were my family, my friends,” the student tells Excalibur.
The joint statement post has received over 3,000 likes and over 1,500 comments on Instagram, showing both support and disapproval.
One comment, which has received over 350 likes, reads: “You’ve made every student who’s ever been a victim of genocide & colonialism feel validated at times where one is listening. Thank you for using your voices and not fearing backlash. I’m prouder of my student union than I am of my university.”
The Pre-Law Association at York’s comment (@playorku on Instagram) has over 150 likes and states: “Honoured to be affiliated with the union that stands for human rights.”
In contrast, another comment on YFS’s post with over 190 likes, says: “No words. This is shameful.” And the student unions’ statement is being countered by two circulating online petitions. The first petition, led by Jewish students and allies at York, calls on the YFS to retract their statement. As of Oct. 21, this petition has garnered over 1,900 signatures.
The second petition — with over 500 signatures as of Oct. 21 — is directed at York President Rhonda Lenton. It calls on her to hold those who made the statement accountable.
Last week, the unions’ statement and the university’s subsequent response made headlines in some of Canada’s most prominent news media organizations like CBC News, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and National Post.
York initially requested the unions to “immediately clarify” that they reject “violence” and “discrimination” against Jewish students. The university called on the three unions to withdraw their statement.
In light of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the university implemented new safety measures such as campus safety patrols, increased security for high-profile events, and an incident response plan.
Despite our several attempts to reach YFS for a comment, including emails, phone calls, and visits to their office, YFS has not responded or contacted us before the publication of this article. The GCSU and YUGSA have also failed to respond to Excalibur.
— With Files From Harshita Choudhary