October 1, 2009
York Faculty Members Rally to Pay Costly Fines Imposed on Students Against Israeli Apartheid
We are a concerned group of York faculty members—concerned for the rights of free speech at York, concerned for the right to dissent, concerned for Palestinian human rights.
During the Spring of this year, 40 of us agreed to make personal contributions to help Students Against Israeli Apartheid-York (SAIA-York) defray the cost of a $1000 fine imposed upon the club by the York administration following a February 12th demonstration in Vari Hall. We did so because we see these fines as part of a larger pattern of repression on those who speak out at York in defence of Palestinian human rights on our campus.
In recent years, York administrators have attempted to expel a student and to discipline a faculty member for speaking out on campus in support of Palestinian human rights. In addition, they have on numerous occasions disciplined and fined SAIA and its members. Such actions bring discredit to the university, and they create a climate hostile to free speech and legitimate dissent.
For this reason, we have chosen to support SAIA with our wallets. And we will do so again, should it be necessary. In the coming weeks and months, we will be informing the York community about further actions in defence of free speech and Palestinian human rights.
Concerned Faculty For Palestinian Human Rights
Please join us in demanding that York University President Mamdouh Shoukri denounce the use of prohibitory fines and sanctions against student clubs like SAIA-York as an instrument to silence Palestine solidarity activism and free speech on campus. Direct your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org and CC SAIA-York as well email@example.com . Feel free to use the sample letter provided below, however you are strongly encouraged to write your own.
I am writing to you today to strongly denounce the punitive measures taken against Students Against Israeli Apartheid-York (SAIA-York), in which the club was suspended for a total of 30 days and fined $1000 (alongside an additional $250 charged directly to the student acount of one of its members). I find it both shameful and morally reprehensible to sanction SAIA-York so severely simply for organizing a Palestine solidarity rally at a time when the people of Gaza were being indiscriminately bombed by the Israeli military for 22 consecutive days without reprieve, culminating in the deaths of over 1,400 people – most of which were innocent civilians.
If York is truly ‘open to the world’, as its own mission statement proudly claims, the fundamental right of students to legitimate dissent and peaceful assembly on campus must remain paramount. Vari Hall is at the core of student life and activism on campus and its rightful claim as ‘student space’ must never be compromised or outlawed. As President of York, it is your responsibility to protect free speech on campus, not to sanction and police those who refuse to stay silent on issues of moral consequence. Should such repressive administrative measures as those levied against SAIA-York continue in the future, you will no doubt be hearing from me again!