[Marxism] York University student scapegoated & suspended for three years

Tony Tracy tony at riseup.net
Thu May 13 09:23:17 MDT 2004


{See also http://www.en-camino.org/freespeechyorku/ for background
information on the case of Dan Freeman-Maloy and a call-out for
support by the York Free Speech Committee}

York U Stumbles
Fearing escalating confrontations between pro-Israel and
pro-Palestine student groups, York picks a scapegoat

from: http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_05.13.04/city/york.html

BY NICOLE COHEN

On October 22, York University's Young Zionist Partnership (YZP)
hosted an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) appreciation day in the campus'
Central Square. They set up displays about the army and blasted
Israeli music out of a loudspeaker. Students wore IDF t-shirts and
buttons that read "More Hummus Less Hamas." The celebration followed
two days of Middle East violence: the morning's newspapers reported
at least 16 people wounded and 10 killed during Israeli strikes in
Gaza and the West Bank.

On another part of campus, third-year political science student Dan
Freeman-Maloy and members of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights
(SPHR) handed out flyers calling the celebration "cheerleading for
terror."

The group of about 12 then marched down to Central Square
chanting "Free, free Palestine." As they approached, the YZP turned
up the music. Though SPHR had a megaphone that several students used
to denounce Israeli policy, their voices were drowned out by YZP's
music and jeering. A crowd of dozens gathered to watch, and someone
called the police.

Freeman-Maloy, 21, was in the middle of the fray. A Jewish, anti-
Zionist student and a social-justice activist, Freeman-Maloy is a
vocal supporter of Palestinian human rights. He's been called a self-
hater and a terrorist, and he says he has received death threats. A
video from the clash shows another Jewish student screaming, "You are
a fucking shame to the fucking race and you shouldn't call yourself a
Jew because you're not," before screaming something else in Hebrew.
Another student is seen yelling, "Show me you're a Jew."

Now, six months later, Freeman-Maloy has been expelled from York for
three years. Well, not expelled, exactly. York president and vice-
chancellor Lorna Marsden's actual words state that he "will not be
permitted to re-register at York University for three calendar
years." Employing power granted to her under the York University Act,
Marsden has unilaterally decided that Freeman-Maloy's conduct this
year was unacceptable, that he is a threat to students and a
disruption to the academy. He cannot appeal the decision.

Technically speaking, he is being sent down for using a megaphone
(also not Marsden's words; she calls it an "unauthorized sound
amplification device"; let's call them USADs), once during the IDF
celebration, and once during another clash between the two groups in
March.

But there were many students protesting at both events, and Freeman-
Maloy was not the only one who used a USAD. The second time he used
the USAD was in March, and Marsden waited for over a month to expel
him. Nancy White, York's director of media relations, says they
waited to let him finish classes, "so it's fair to him." Freeman-
Maloy thinks it's because the end of the year is a tough time to
mount an effective on-campus political response.

He was three weeks away from his final exams and was about to start
his job as an editor at the Excalibur, York's student newspaper -- a
position to which he was elected. And though Marsden later announced
that Freeman-Maloy would be allowed to finish the term, she has
banned him from setting foot on campus.

Freeman-Maloy was baffled by his de facto expulsion. He says he did
not break any school rules, and says Marsden is trying to shut him --
and his political views -- up. "It's an attempt at political
repression, a chance to set a precedent."

Throughout the year campus activists have accused York's
administration of trying to repress political activity. They have
decried the university's corporate ties, and accused Marsden of
trying to push a political agenda.

Freeman-Maloy has been a vocal critic. He called for the removal of a
member of the York Foundation's board of directors, has publicly
questioned Israeli and Canadian leaders at campus speaking
engagements, and criticized York administration in the media. He
founded the group Students for a Critical Consciousness, which, among
other things, was inteded to inject a voice of reason onto a campus
where moderate Jews feel alienated from organized Jewish campus life.
He has spoken out about the administration's banning of leafleting
and tabling in certain areas on campus. It's the kind of activity
that gets you noticed up in the ivory tower.

His forced departure is part of a larger story unfolding at York.
Global tensions have manifested on Canadian campuses, and York is no
exception, especially when it comes to hot-button Middle East
politics. It's not rare to see people ripping posters they don't
agree with off the walls, or crumpling up handouts and tossing them
on the floor. Clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups
thrust the suburban campus into the media spotlight this year, and
have generated whispers of York being the new Concordia.

With over 47,000 students, York is the third-largest university in
Canada. And as institutions struggle to compete for funding and
enrolment dollars, it's important to present a controversy-free image.

And things blew up during a clash on March 16, a few months before
York was set to launch a high-profile advertising campaign.

SPHR and Jewish groups squared off in Vari Hall on a day both groups
had planned events. The slightly blurred photo that ran in the
Excalibur five days later depicted a mob of students -- some
wearing "If I was a suicide bomber you'd be dead by now" t-shirts --
chanting and pushing, with Freeman-Maloy in the middle of the fracas,
using a USAD.

The event was all over the mainstream media, and both Hillel and SPHR
were banned for a week, which infuriated students who called for
freedom of speech.

White says Freeman-Maloy was expelled because he intentionally
disrupted classes by organizing two highly confrontational protests.

But Freeman-Maloy says he did not orchestrate the March 16 event, and
doesn't know why he was singled out. He is unaware of anyone else --
from SPHR or a Jewish group -- being reprimanded.

White says that groups can book space on campus to hold a protest,
and calls the events Freeman-Maloy participated in "illegal"
protests. And, under no circumstances, says White, are students
allowed to protest in Vari Hall, a round, bright, wide-open space
with high ceilings, which happens to be the main university
thoroughfare and an ideal space for public gathering. Students lounge
against the walls and sometimes play hackey sack, and the university
often hosts career fairs and other events, which make the hall noisy
and difficult to walk through.

White insists that Freeman-Maloy was warned about the impending
dismissal, but he doesn't buy it. Besides, "they haven't established
definitively that classes were disturbed," he says.

White says she spoke with students who said their classes were
interrupted, but the Excalibur reported that members of York security
and "high-ranking administrative officials" watched the clash for
almost an hour before interfering.

The expulsion has sent a chill through campus.

"The decision represents an appalling breach of rights to free
speech," says doctoral student Clarice Kuhling. She says York has a
long history of megaphones at demonstrations on campus, but never has
anyone been penalized or expelled.

Professor David McNally, who has been on York's political science
faculty for 20 years, was shocked by the measures taken against
Freeman-Maloy.

"I have never witnessed such an aggressive violation of due process
and basic civil liberties (on campus)," he says. "The punishment is
in no way proportionate to the alleged crime."

McNally says the punishment violates York's progressive spirit. But
he is also concerned about the larger issue at stake: a rollback of
the freedom of speech and the right to political dissent on campus
that students had to fight for in previous decades.

Marsden insists the expulsion is not political. Freeman-Maloy, who
now has lawyers Peter Rosenthal and Jackie Esmonde of Roach, Schwartz
and Associates representing him, is worried about the message this
sends to campus activists.

"This is an act of political repression," he says. "They're stifling
free speech on campus and clamping down on dissent."

{from Eye Weekly: http://www.eye.net}





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