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October 24, 2002 Board of governors relaxes restrictions



Concordia crest

by Barbara Black

On the recommendation of Rector Frederick Lowy, Concordia’s Board of Governors has agreed to allow the return of information tables for all campus groups on the mezzanine of the Henry F. Hall Building, except for those related to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The lobby of the Hall Building will continue to remain free of information tables.

The vote, taken at a special meeting of the Board on Monday, was unanimous. Members of the Board recognized the steps that have been taken to lower the level of tension on campus, and expressed confidence that in the near future, gradual easing of the restrictions on Middle East debate will be possible.

The closed session was a continuation of the discussion from the regular Board meeting held Oct. 16, at which the members were shocked by media images and security footage of the Sept. 9 incident, in which hundreds of demonstrators succeeded in preventing a speech in the Hall Building by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The tape, shown by Vice-Rector Michael Di Grappa in the context of a security report to the Board, clearly showed the demonstrators breaking the windows, smashing through the barriers on the mezzanine and emptying a fire extinguisher and hurling furniture at police.

It also showed that police used pepper spray only after the demonstrators smashed the window and began hurling objects through the broken glass. The clouds that filled the Hall Building lobby were from the fire extinguisher and pepper spray sucked back into the lobby, not tear gas, as some reports falsely claimed.

After viewing the tapes on Oct. 16, several Board members feared that a premature loosening of the cooling-off period could lead to more violence. After long discussion, the Board tabled resolutions to moderate the emergency measures.

However, at their special meeting on Oct. 21, the Board resolved to encourage discussion between the administration and the student leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Dr. Lowy, with the co-operation of the Concordia Student Union (CSU), has encouraged the principal groups involved in the Middle East debate to open a dialogue. The CSU, Hillel and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) have agreed to adhere to the principles of mutual respect, and to avoid racist or ethnic stereotyping.

Initiatives are being developed with them and the CSU to organize events that would clarify Middle East issues. This may include a fact-finding visit by selected students to the region.

The Board has also resolved to look at revising the Code of Rights and Responsibilities. Pending the report of a review committee, the exceptional disciplinary powers given to the administration by the Board will remain in effect. Concordia Security continues to examine the tapes of the event to identify those responsible for the violence, and the university will take action under the existing Code.

Dr. Lowy told the Board on Oct. 16 that although no formal charges have yet been laid, the police have informed him that five non-students will soon be charged with acts ranging from assault to vandalism and illegal assembly. They will receive letters from Concordia banning them from campus and from enrolling at the university for five years.

Nine Concordia students have been identified as having participated in breaking through the barriers on the mezzanine, and will face sanctions under the Code. In addition, the police are investigating several complaints that may lead to additional charges.