[Marxism] The case of Jewish pro-Palestinian student Dan Freeman-Maloy and York University

Tony Tracy tony at riseup.net
Mon May 10 10:21:15 MDT 2004

I'd like to draw comrades attention yet again to the continuing case of Dan
Freeman-Maloy, a Jewish undergraduate student at York University who is an
outspoken supporter of Palestinian self-determination and the right of
return for Palestinian refugees, and his three year suspension (expulsion?)
from York University for the dubious crime of using a megaphone on campus.

Please see http://www.en-camino.org/freespeechyorku/ for more information
and background on this case.

The University administration is digging their heels in considerably with
respect to this case. York University President Lorna Marsden, who
unilaterally issued a notice of suspension (and threat of trespass charges
should he enter the York U. campus at any point in the next three years)
without any form of prior process, has made several statements to the media
in defence of her position on Freeman-Maloy's suspension, which she called
"rustication, an old academic form of discipline." She said the student had
twice used a megaphone during protests on the campus. "You can't disrupt the
academy," Marsden stated to a National Post reporter. "It's all written down
in rules that are very, very old. The decision comes to me. He cannot

An annotated version of the letter of suspension that Freeman-Maloy received
from York President Marsden is available online at

On Friday, President Marsden released a public statement, issued to the
press and displayed on York's website at
http://www.yorku.ca/yfile/archive/index.asp?Article=2784 which justifies the
bizarrely lengthy suspension of Freeman-Maloy by repeating the mis-truth
that he refused to meet with university officials to discuss his case and
indicating that therefore his "utter disregard for the rest of the academic
community here at York warranted this unusual measure".

It is urgent that letters are sent to York President Marsden opposing the
three year suspension of Freeman-Maloy.  Please write to President Lorna
Marsden at presidnt at yorku.ca (no "e" between "d" and "n") and copy your
message to freespeechyorku at yahoo.ca. 

Letters can also be postmarked to: 

Office of the President 
York University
4700 Keele St. 
Toronto, ON 
Canada M3J 1P3 

or faxed to: 416-736-5641

(please email freespeechyorku at yahoo.ca with copies of any letters that you
post or fax on this issue).

Below is an article written recently by Dan Freeman-Maloy with respect to
his case:


Musings of a Rusticated Student 

Daniel Freeman-Maloy, May 9, 2004 

Over the past week, I've come to a startling revelation: the President of
York University doesn't like me very much. It's a harsh reality, but one
that I’m being forced to come to grips with. She has me pegged as "the lead
protagonist in two highly confrontational and disruptive protests," and
seems set on submitting me to "rustication, an old academic form of
discipline." Rustication, for those without an old dictionary on hand, is a
sort of rural time-out. At the very least, she’s declared that for the three
years following May 1, 2004, I will “have no purpose on campus.” Whether
she's old-school enough to ensure that I live a rustic life throughout this
period isn't yet clear. 

Now Lorna Marsden is no hero of mine, but I’ve really always admired her
prudent, business-like approach to administration. Her tireless efforts to
convert our campus into a factory for the knowledge economy have, in
particular, been noteworthy. But alas, the respect doesn’t appear to be
mutual. And so I’ve been thrown into the difficult process of coming to
terms with the fundamental deterioration of our relationship. When I first
received notice that I was being expelled from York University on Friday,
April 30, I didn't want to jump to any conclusions prematurely. True,
President Marsden had written me a letter claiming definitive "authority
over the conduct of students"; true, she'd threatened me with charges of
trespass if I come on campus. (I had used “an unauthorized sound
amplification device” at two unauthorized demonstrations, she explained, and
would have to be punished.) But I remembered looking through the shelves of
the first office I ever entered at York University, and seeing books by or
about Rosa Luxemburg every other foot. Could the head of such a progressive
school really be so authoritarian? It just didn't make sense. 

And so the (false) realization hit me: Dr. Marsden must have mistakenly
thought that April fool's day was at the end rather than the beginning of
the month! Self-assured, I resolved to credit her for her fine humor, and to
correct the timing of her April fool's day joke for future reference. The
threat of trespass charges still bore on my mind, however, so I decided to
try to touch base with her off campus. 

York's Spirit Rally, scheduled for Monday, May 3, provided just the right
opportunity. And thus I found myself at the doors of the Duke of York,
hoping to join other students, faculty and staff at a press conference
designed to celebrate York's unique spirit and opportunities. But – first
things first – I wanted to clear things up with our good President. "Dr.
Marsden," I said, as she walked up the steps of the downtown pub. "My name's
Daniel Freeman-Maloy, and I just received a letter notifying me of a
three-year expulsion from York." All of the sudden, the same security guards
who sit in on our campus political meetings swarmed us, threatening to call
the police. "But what about York's uniquely progressive spirit? What about
your fine joke? Did you know that April fool's day was fully a month ago?
Was this letter a 'May Day' joke?" My questions went unasked as our
encounter was cut short; and so my doubts about the letter's friendly spirit
grew stronger. 

My mind flashed back to the passage in the letter citing her authority to
expel me: "pursuant to my authority over the conduct of students, I have
determined that you will not be permitted to re-register". Was this for
real? Can I really by expelled from my school by executive fiat, with no
notice, no hearing, no avenue for appeal? Little did I know what she was
telling reporters in the press conference: I had been rusticated. As in the
days of old, I would be sent to the country to think about what I had done.

For those who are poorly-versed in the ins and outs of rustication,
President Marsden elaborated. "It's all written down," she explained to the
audience, "in rules that are very, very, very old. The decision comes to me.
He cannot appeal." I've always been bad at arithmetic, but doesn't three
"verys" equal one "antiquated"? Or should I just be thankful that Marsden
didn't find any provisions to justify a public flogging? Maybe, taking the
lead from the public relations campaign kicked off by the press conference,
I should explore my confusion with reference to the unique spirit of York. 

York University's mission statement describes our school as "a community of
faculty, staff and students dedicated to 
 social justice and accessible
education." With this in mind, try to understand my confusion. If it's all
about social justice and accessible education, why am I in the process of
deciding whether I should take the time to fight the administration's
political repression, or work to pay off the tens of thousands of dollars
debt that I've wracked up paying tuition? Why is Marsden so intent on
converting a progressive school into a pet business project, and on treating
its campus as her political fiefdom? Why, to stick to the immediate issue at
hand, am I being expelled? 

On this last point, which for the moment is most personally pressing for me,
the truth is that I don't exactly know. For starters, though, let’s run down
the specifics of the two demonstrations that I am alleged to have “designed
[so as] to create threats to students’ personal safety.” (Such malicious
intent! No wonder I’m being expelled!) 

On this first of these days, the administration provided space for "Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) Appreciation Day," an event at which people sporting
military paraphernalia congregated in one of York University's principal
public spaces to celebrate Israeli militarism. The mayor of an illegal West
Bank settlement led the event, which was attended by many people who have
served in the forces. Did I help to organize a demonstration to politically
confront this event? Certainly. I hate militarism, and feel especially
compelled to oppose its Jewish nationalist variety, given its supposed
connection to me. But honestly, which strikes you as more threatening:
anti-nationalist spiels delivered via megaphone, or chanting IDF thugs
dressed in military garb? 

That I would be singled out and punished for the events on the second day in
question – March 16, 2004 – is even more puzzling. Which isn’t to say that
the day ran smoothly. In fact, what happened on that day was without
precedent in my experience. But that I orchestrated it all is really news to

The occasion of our demonstration was the first anniversary of the death of
Rachel Corrie, a US peace activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli
bulldozer as she tried to block it from demolishing a Palestinian family's
home in the Gaza Strip. Approximately thirty of us set up a mock
check-point, some dressed as soldiers and some as civilians (in fact,
unimaginative bore that I am, I had no dramatic role, and was slated to
leaflet passersby with information about Caterpillar, the company that
manufactures the three-story bulldozers that demolish Palestinian homes). 

Having seen that a crowd of some 150 militant Zionists had congregated
nearby for the purpose of a counter-demonstration, we’d postponed our action
for about 45 minutes to avoid a clash. But no dice – once we set up, they
proceeded to rush our display. We were surrounded, vastly outnumbered, and
for nearly an hour faced physical and verbal intimidation. In this context,
my role shifted first from pamphleteering to standing in a line designed to
separate the counter-demonstration from our own; then pre-planned roles gave
way to generalized tumult. In the process, some of our activists were kicked
and spat upon, and one Palestinian woman among us was told that she should
be raped and killed. 

Certainly, I spoke and chanted through a megaphone at various points
throughout this process, as did many others. But perhaps indicative of my
role in generating all of the noise is the fact that it took myself and
other organizers fully 10 minutes to walk around coordinating with each
other to leave and go, as planned, to the local Caterpillar office, since no
speaker could raise their voice above the crowd’s noise for a final
call-out. (York’s media relations coordinator, Nancy White, was soon after
quoted as saying that “People who are participating in this have strongly
held views on an issue and we do want to encourage them to participate and
take part in democratic activities. I think we achieved that.” The
administration made no reference to my conduct until I received this most
recent letter.) 

All of that said, I don’t think the deterioration of my relationship with
President Marsden’s administration can be attributed solely to the events of
these two days – assuming, of course, that this isn’t all a prolonged May
Day joke. After all, it’s safe to say that we’ve been politically at odds
throughout the year. After Marsden introduced Israeli Minister Natan
Sharansky as a champion of human rights, I publicly denounced the event as
racist. After she clapped gleefully for Canadian diplomat Michael Bell's
speech, I explained to the audience why I thought it was useless. As she
scrambled to further the role of wealthy investors on campus through the
York University Foundation, I participated in a campaign to demand that an
abusively racist employer be removed from its board. And so on. 

Before my head gets too big, however, it’s important for me to draw
attention to the fact that I'm a political novice, and for this expulsion to
be solely about me seems implausible. I'm an inexperienced organizer and, to
be blunt, this diminishes my political efficacy profoundly. I was attracted
to York University from the University of Toronto by the dynamism of York's
social justice community, and this community's more rooted activists, and
the foundations they have laid, are the real basis for progressive politics
at York – tumultuous or otherwise. It is absolutely necessary, then, to view
my expulsion in a broader light, situated on an escalating continuum of
political repression by York’s current administration. 

All of this needs to be framed by York’s recent political history in
general, and last year’s major upsurge of student activism in particular.
Facing a strong anti-war movement on campus last year, President Marsden
responded fiercely, bringing mounted police onto campus for the first time
ever, arresting three prominent organizers of a March 5 student strike, and
beginning to slap prohibitively high "security" fees on progressive speaking
events. This year, her administration has continued with this process of
repression, moving on to ban tabling and leafleting in various public spaces
on campus and to otherwise stifle student dissent. Her administration also
intervened heavy-handedly to allow for York’s traditionally progressive
student government to be overrun by the Stockwell Day cheerleading squad,
who summarily postponed elections. 

Marsden quite openly wants to convert York into just another elite
university, freed from the stigma of striking workers, uppity students, and
challenges to her administration's authority. And it is in this light that
my expulsion makes perfect sense. The intimidating precedent set by the
expulsion of a student activist resonates, especially on a campus where the
most active elements of the student body are non-status students
particularly vulnerable to repression. It is the threat of this precedent,
rather than the immediate personal or political effects of my removal from
campus, that is most importantly at issue here. 

The setting of a precedent for political expulsion of students would be yet
another step in the process of creating President Marsden’s envisioned York
Incorporated. And this is why those with a different vision for our campus
have, I think, a significant stake in blocking it. By now, even if this does
turn out to be joke, it’s run on long enough that I have no choice but to
pursue legal recourse, and am delighted to be doing so with the help of the
amazing folks at Roach, Schwartz and Associates. As for the political side
of things, immediately after the York Free Speech Committee publicized its
email address, we were flooded with messages of support. We appreciate this
immensely, and hope that the flow of letters of outrage to York’s
administration will continue. We thank everybody for the support they have
provided, and will keep people posted as the campaign continues. Whether for
bad humor or for rampant authoritarianism, President Marsden needs to be
called on her conduct. 

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