The administration at York University has recently announced that organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week events will be forced to pay “security fees” to hold their events on campus or their room bookings, which were made more than a month ago, will be cancelled. Please take a moment to support SAIA@York by taking the action they outline in their public statement:

Public Statement About Israeli Apartheid Week
Room Cancellation at York University

On Thursday the 3rd of March 2011, less than one week before the beginning of the Seventh Annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), the administration of York University informed the IAW organizers of a change to a room booking which had been made over one month in advance. The message from the administration was clear- the room will be cancelled unless the group pays “security fees” to hire police to be present during the event. This decision was based on A “security assessment” by York University. Despite repeated requests from the IAW organizers, the York administration refused to explain what the security considerations involved, and did not share any information as to what or who is the source of the security threat.

Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA-York), the organizer of the event, refused to pay the “security fees” for the following reasons:

i) Accessibility: These fees will put a significant strain on the very limited budget of the student group.
ii) Unreasonable demand: SAIA-York does not see any need for police presence. IAW activities took place on York campus for the past 3 years without incident, and there is no basis to believe that this year will be different. This is especially the case given that the three speakers at the event are two professors, one of whom teaches at York, and the third is a York student. Furthermore, it is unjust for SAIA-York to be asked to pay to protect itself from harassment done to its members and supporters by outside aggressors.

This last minute condition imposed by the York administration is consistent with the recent pattern where the Israel Lobby groups pressure educational institutions to raise the costs for holding Palestine advocacy events. Last month, Mohawk College presented a similar ultimatum for allowing a lecture by Dr. Norman Finklestein to proceed as planned on its campus. Unfortunately, by imposing the security fees and putting a price tag on freedom of speech and inquiry, York University has become the most recent institution to use this silencing tactic. This of course comes as no surprise. As demonstrated by a number of incidents in the past, documented by publications and reports, York University’s commitment to freedom of speech is almost always limited when it comes to Palestine.

SAIA-York calls on supporters of Israeli Apartheid Week and everyone who supports freedom of speech and inquiry to contact York President Mamdouh Shoukri. Help explain to York University Administration the importance of freedom of speech, and that freedom of speech should not be treated as a commodity granted or denied based on the ability to pay. Please, make your voice and ours heard by following the steps below:

Step One

Copy/paste the sample letter below (feel free to modify) into the body of an email.

Dear President Mamdouh Shoukri

I am writing to communicate my outrage and sorrow at your recent decision to cancel the room booking for Students Against Israeli Apartheid @ York unless they pay “security fees”.

While safety considerations are very important, the attempt to impose the fees on a student club is unacceptable. It is more so when the University refuses to disclose the reasons for its assessment.

The university is meant to be a space of free debate and discussion. By imposing the fees, you are restricting the margins of free speech and limiting it to those who have the means to pay. This is contrary to the values on which the university is built.

This last minute cancelation is consistent with the recent pattern OF Israel lobby groups pressuring educational institutions to raise the costs for holding Palestine advocacy events. Last month, Mohawk College administration presented a similar condition for allowing a lecture by Dr. Norman Finklestein to proceed as planned on its campus. Unfortunately, by imposing the security fees and putting a price tag on freedom of speech and inquiry, you are showing that York University has little respect for values that are considered the basic tenets of academic work.

I urge you to cancel the “security fees” and resist all political pressure to cancel or restrict student activities on campus.

Yours,

Step Two

For the subject line, write: York shamefully puts a price tag on free expression.

Step Three

Copy/paste the emails below into your to: field

presidnt@yorku.ca; mshoukri@yorku.ca; rjtiffin@yorku.ca; normasue@yorku.ca

and cc: SAIA@York:

saiayork@riseup.net

Step Four

Hit send!

Step Five

Use the sharing links in this post to encourage your friends and networks to do the same!

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