by Barbara Black
The moratorium on public events related to the Middle East has been lifted
by Concordia Universitys Board of Governors.
The board unanimously voted at its monthly meeting on Nov. 20 to authorize
the rector to lift the ban, and this was done at 5 p.m. on Nov. 25.
In a statement, the Board expressed satisfaction that the moratorium had
achieved its goal of imposing a cooling-off period. The ban was imposed
Sept. 10 after violence prevented a speech by former Israeli prime minister
The moratorium was always intended as a temporary measure,
said Rector Frederick Lowy after the meeting. It gave all parties
a chance to step back from an emotional issue and rethink the way we discuss
such issues at Concordia.
Over the last two months, senior university administrators have met with
representatives of the Concordia Student Union, Hillel and Solidarity
for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) to define the parameters of what would
be considered acceptable behaviour and what would not be tolerated on
The objective was to provide
a secure environment where all members of the university community could
express their views vigorously, but in a respectful manner. The principles
provide a framework to guide public expression on campus. These principles
include a series of commitments: to mutual respect and non-violent behaviour,
structured dialogue, and regard for the core academic functions
of the university.
In a message sent throughout the university, Dr. Lowy reminded members
that this year, the religious holidays of Ramadan, Hanukkah and
Christmas are celebrated within weeks of each other. It is a time for
reflection for all of us.
The Rector's full message:
As of 5 p.m. Nov. 25, the
cooling-off period and its restrictions came to an end. We all expect
and hope that the University can now return to normal functioning.
As you well know, Concordia has a well-earned reputation for being one
of the most open universities in Canada, and we have never shied away
from debate on any controversial issue. I am aware that some members of
our community may have felt uncomfortable about the cooling-off period
and the restrictions on public events related to the Middle East. I understand
these feelings and I hope that the community also understands that the
violent actions of a few forced us to walk a fine line between the ideal,
an absolute dedication to freedom of speech, and the necessity to intervene
to preserve a civil campus where freedom of speech is possible in an intimidation-free
We have now taken action against those who could be identified as having
contributed to the violence on Sept. 9, and we are confident that the
Code of Rights and Responsibilities will provide a fair hearing. These
people, some from the leadership of student groups, must assume responsibility
for their role in this disgraceful event. We too are looking at the administration's
handling of these events with a critical eye. In the weeks to come, we
will share our reflections on these events with the community.
We have traversed a painful period in our history. However, I hope that
we may be a stronger community for it with our commitment to peaceful
dialogue reinforced, and a strengthened will to combat intolerance and
Monitor and apply principles
We will now monitor events closely and enforce strictly the principles
upon which there is agreement. While these have been developed jointly
by the administration, the CSU, Hillel and SPHR specifically with respect
to relations between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students, they apply,
in fact, to all student groups irrespective of the topic or context. The
principles in question are:
Commitment to respect for all persons.
Commitment to non-violent behaviour.
Commitment to not permit:
Speech or materials that promote
racism against any individual
Events or displays or literature
that promote racism, promote
hate or stereotype individuals or groups based on race, colour, ethnic
or national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status,
age, religion, political convictions, language, social condition,
handicap or the use of a means to palliate a handicap.
Commitment to reasoned respectful dialogue.
Commitment to protect the core academic functions of the University.
The intent of enforcing these principles is to prevent a recurrence of
the unwelcome tensions that dominated the Sir George Williams campus during
the past two years.
Exploit our diversity
However, we ought to be able to do more than merely enforce principles
of conduct and keep tensions from rising excessively. We must now look
for positive ways to take advantage of Concordia's marvellous ethnic,
religions, cultural and political diversity. We regularly pay lip service
to this diversity, stressing the educational and social advantages of
studying and working in such a rich human environment, yet we have not
gone far enough to exploit these advantages for the benefit of all of
I wish now to turn to our
entire community for help and ask each of you to give thought to this
point. We are looking for ideas. What can we do to promote positive interaction
among the different groups represented in our University? How can we benefit
more from our diversity? What will facilitate not only tolerance but also
civility and understanding between people who disagree with respect to
values and political positions?
This year the religious holidays of Ramadan, Hanukkah and Christmas are
celebrated within weeks of each other. It is a time for reflection for
all of us.
I invite you to send me your thoughts, ideas, suggestions by fax (848-4546)
or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you in advance.
Frederick Lowy,Rector and Vice-Chancellor