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September 13, 2001 Two CSU activists fight their ban



Marouf, Keefer

Laith Marouf, left, with Tom Keefer, outside the Hall Building

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Barbara Black

Two activists with the Concordia Student Union have vowed to fight back with a petition and vigorous protests against their exclusion from Concordia property. However, only about 20 students seemed to be listening as they spoke on a sound system outside the busy Hall Building entrance one day last week.

Laith Marouf, a vice-president of the CSU, and Tom Keefer, a member of the CSU Council of Representatives, were informed of the ban through personal letters from the rector on August 20. They want a formal hearing into their case. The university suggested naming an independent fact-finder, but the men rejected that proposal.

The ban stems from an incident on July 20, when Concordia security guards apprehended Marouf for the second time in a week as he was spray-painting graffiti on the York Cinema, which is university property. They took him to the Hall Building, where he gave them his student ID and other information in the lobby, and Security called the police.

Then Marouf bolted for the escalator and took refuge in the CSU’s offices on the sixth floor, which was occupied by about a dozen people, including Keefer. A physical confrontation ensued, in which a security guard was slightly injured, and the alleged death threat was uttered. The police arrived, but no arrests were made.

The affair has caused considerable comment, not only on campus, but in the media and among alumni, notably those in the Jewish and Arabic communities, since the graffiti was anti-Israel and pro-Palestine. The executive of CUFA, the Concordia University Faculty Association, supports the rector’s decision (See Letters, page 4). Noam Chomsky, NDP MP and secondary education critic Libby Davies and at least one Concordia faculty member have expressed support for the students.

Marouf and Keefer claim that the ban was made without due process, with no input from the witnesses to the incident. They want to be called before a Student Hearing Board under the university’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities, which covers behaviour on campus.

The university says that the Code doesn’t apply because Marouf and Keefer were not students at the time of the incident. Marouf was ineligible to be a student for academic reasons, and Keefer was an independent student not registered for any courses at the time of the incident.

Keefer is already appearing, with another student, before a Student Hearing Board as the result of a complaint filed under the Code over an incident last February. During a recruiting session on the mezzanine, tables for the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service were overturned.

So far, two hearings have been held into that case. They were marked by a highly vocal presence on the part of CSU supporters, including numerous procedural motions, and the appearance of a masked “anarchist band” beating drums. Keefer has denounced the Student Hearing Board, which consists of three volunteer student jurors and a lawyer, as a kangaroo court.

Also this summer, the CSU-recognized student group, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, requested from the university the use of the green space at the corner of Guy St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. for a bazaar and the start of a protest march on Saturday, Sept. 15.

Organizers said they anticipated 27,000 to 30,000 participants. The university refused permission, saying that the space would only hold about 2,700 people and they were concerned about safety. The protest march was still scheduled to take place until it was postponed in light of Tuesday’s tragedy in the U.S.

University administrators say it is ridiculous to present the banning of Marouf and Keefer as being politically motivated, and that it relates to an incident involving an assault and a death threat.

For its part, the CSU bases its support of the Palestinian cause on a referendum passed by students last spring that supports a United Nations resolution condemning Israel.

Last Monday, the CSU executive made public a taped phone call to CSU offices on August 25 in which a caller claiming to speak for the Committee to Eradicate Palestine said, “You are all targets now.” CSU president Sabrina Stea said MUC police are investigating.

David Bernans, a CSU employee, said Marouf and Keefer will be named “honorary students” so that they can continue with their duties.