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Ontario University closes pro-Palestinian student group

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(From Edward C. Corrigan). Here is a disturbing email that I received from University of Western Ontario PIRG.

It is not clear from the email what grounds were put forward for deratification and if any warning was given to UWO PRIG as to problems and any opportunity to correct procedural errors. I am not sure how other UWO student clubs are treated and what circumstances are required before deratification. UWO PRIG has been the official sponsor of a number of pro-Palestinian speakers on campus since the deratification of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at Western several years ago. The pro-Palestinian stance of the SPHR club was clearly a part the attacks on that club.

UWO PIRG also sponsored speakers critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. These speakers included Israeli historian Ilan Pappe who  spoke about the “Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine in 1948-1949” and Dr. Ismail Zayid, who gave a presentation on the discriminatory nature of the Jewish National Fund. If these pro-Palestinian presentations were part of the reasons behind the deratification of UWO PIRG and SPHR then they follow a pattern of anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism that has been found to exist at the University of Western Ontario in the past.

Anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism has been the subject of at least four human rights complaints made to the Ontario Human Rights Commission against the University of Western Ontario. All four complaints were up held by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Three complaints were up held against the University of Western Ontario and one was up held against the University Students Council (USC). My article on the USC complaint and on the battle to present the pro-Palestinian speakers, many of them Jewish, at  Western can be found in “The Palestinian Question at the University: The Case of Western Ontario,@ American-Arab Affairs, Summer 1987, pp. 87-98. (This journal is now called Middle East Policy). The University Student’s Council was required to publish “a statement of regret” and to ratify Canadians Concerned for the Middle East (CCME). The pro-Palestinian club also won the backing of the Canadian Civil Liberities Association and a supportive editorial from the Globe and Mail. Many Jewish academics and other prominent figures also criticized the attempt to censor debate on the Palestinian issue at UWO.

The three complaints of “differential treatment of Arab students” were filed in 1987 against the University of Western Ontario. The University of Western Ontario was required to publish an apology and pay four Arab students $2,000 each for “their mental anguish.”  Newspaper reports of the “Anti-Arab complaint” were carried in the London Free Press and the Globe and Mail on February 10, 1994. “In his open letter of apology university president George Pedersen admitted Western was slow in responding to the local Arab Palestinian community’s ‘legitimate concerns’ and failed to achieve ‘the ideals associated with freedom of speech in the incidents cited.’” (“UWO agrees to apologize, pay Arab students $8,000,” London Free Press, February 10, 1994 p. B1)

What is disturbing is that the President of the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Paul Davenport, defends his accepting an award from the Jewish National Fund, which was found to be a racist organization by the Israeli Supreme Court for discrimination against Arabs in Israel, on the basis of free speech. I am a strong supporter of free speech and academic freedom. However, the silence of the UWO Administration on repeated attempts to harass and shut down pro-Palestinian organizations at Western and organizations that sponsor pro-Palestinian speakers, speaks loudly about hypocrisy and to discriminatory and even racist attitudes towards Arab and Muslim students at UWO, and those who associate with them. This silence and refusal to intervene also speaks of a blatant double standard towards free speech and academic freedom when it comes Palestinian human rights at Western when these same arguments are used to defend racism against Arabs in Israel by organizations such as the Jewish National Fund.

Edward C. Corrigan, BA, MA, LL.B

UWO Alumni  1977 and 1991.

It is with great sadness that I must inform the UWO PIRG membership and supporters that the club was de-ratified tonight by the Clubs Policy Committee of the University Student Council.  Effectively immediately, the club no longer exists and all are assets (including $600+) are now property of the USC.

You will hear more regarding the appeal process from the steering committee soon.

Please contact the USC President Tom Stevenson [email protected]

 and/or

USC Student Affairs Sabrina Sdao [email protected] as to why the USC felt this was necessary.  And/or write a letter to Western News [email protected]. <mailto:[email protected]> ca 300 word or less with full name, address, and phone number.

***

Wednesday April 23, 2008

UWO Public Interest Research Group Executive:

RE:     Findings of the Clubs Policy Committee

As per the notice of potential de-ratification sent on April 4th, The University Students’ Council Clubs Policy Committee has de-ratified the UWO Public Interest Research Group on the following grounds: 

Clubs Policy Statement of Club Responsibilities, which reads as follows:

1.0     Every club’s Executive must fulfill the club’s responsibilities owed to the USC and to the club’s membership.  Club Responsibilities include the following:

 (5) Financial

        iii. to adhere to all USC accounting policies and procedures;

AND,

 

(2) Event Management

iv. to ensure that any club event complies with the relevant policies or procedures including, but not limited to:

a. Clubs Policy, applicable to all clubs;

b. Trips Policy for Non-Alcoholic Events, for any non-alcoholic event taking place off campus;

c. Campus Alcohol Policy, for any events involving alcohol;

In addition, a notice has been issued for your club’s failure to comply with the Clubs Policy, General Club Procedures, which states:

5.00    Event & Risk Management

5.06    A club must submit event applications via ClubsNet in accordance with the Clubs Policy.

The Clubs Policy Committee considered the de-ratification of the UWO Public Interest Research Group on the following grounds:

Clubs Policy:  De-Ratification Procedure

2.00    De-Ratification

(1)  Circumstances where de-ratification may be considered include:

(ix) the club consistently violated or has, at the CPC’s sole discretion, committed a serious violation of USC policies, procedures and other governing documents;

Based on this information, the CPC de-ratified the UWO Public Interest Research Group on Tuesday April 22, 2008.

Section 2.00(2) of the Clubs Policy states that:

A club that has been de-ratified for any of the reasons set forth in paragraphs i, ii, iii and iv above shall not be permitted to apply for ratification for a period of twelve months (12) from the date the club was de-ratified.

i. A club that has been de-ratified for any other reason shall not be permitted to apply for ratification for a period of twenty-four (24) months from the date the club was de-ratified.

As such, the UWO Public Interest Research Group, or any other student organization seeking ratification with a mandate similar to the UWO Public Interest Research Group’s mandate, will not be permitted to apply for ratification until April 22, 2010.

Given that the Club is now de-ratified, the following sections of the Clubs Policy apply:

2.00(3) A club that has been de-ratified will have its account closed and any money in the account will become the property of the USC.

2.00(4) Any club assets or supplies in a locker or in office space will become property of the USC.

Effective immediately, the UWO Public Interest Research Group’s USC account will be closed and any assets or supplies in any locker or office will become the property of the USC.

RECOURSE AVAILABLE:

Only the decision to de-ratify a club may be appealed.  De-ratification may be appealed to the Appeal Board outlined in the Clubs Policy:

De-Ratification Procedure.  As per section 8.00(4), you must submit an Appeal Form to the USC President.  Any appeal must be submitted to the USC Front Office, addressed to the USC President, or to the President’s email account, [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> uwo.ca, by 4:30  p.m. on April 28, 2008.  The USC Front Office is located on the 3rd floor of the University Community Centre, and closes at 4:30 p.m. so please ensure that you allot yourself sufficient time to submit an appeal.

The Appeal Board may uphold or overturn the CPC’s decision to de-ratify the UWO Public Interest Research Group.

Where the Appeal Board has overturned the CPC’s decision to de-ratify the Club, the Appeal Board will refer the matter back to the CPC to determine whether or not any other sanction should be imposed.

Any appeal should clearly state the reasons for appealing the decision of the Clubs Policy Committee.  The UWO Public Interest Research Group will not be permitted to appear before the Board, so please ensure that any written appeal is thorough.  The Appeal Board will consider the written reasons for appeal in addition to the material that was before the CPC and any minutes from the CPC meeting held on April 22, 2008.

During the appeal process, the decision of the CPC will take effect.

The Appeal Board’s decision is final.  Once a decision is made, the Board will provide written reasons for its decision to the UWO Public Interest Research Group and the CPC.

 

Sincerely,

Sabrina Sdao

USC Vice President of Student Events

 

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