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September 26, 2002 Letters


We welcome your letters, opinions and comments at BC-121/1463 Bishop St., by fax (514-848-2814), or e-mail (barblak@alcor.concordia.ca) by 9 a.m. on the Friday prior to publication.

Netanyahu was not blocked at Berkeley

The Gazette's Sept. 10 story on the Netanyahu visit in Canada contains an error that should be corrected.

Near the bottom of the story it states that students at the University of California, Berkeley, tried to block Netanyahu's visit to the campus two years ago.

Netanyah did not visit UC Berkeley and the campus was not involved in this incident in any way. He was scheduled to speak at an event off campus and that event was sponsored by a Marin County company that runs a private lecture series. The event was at the Berkeley Community Center, an off-campus site run by the city of Berkeley.

The incidents and actions related to this event involved the city of Berkeley and its police department, not the campus administration nor campus police department. Again, there was no UC Berkeley involvement in any way.

Please correct this point. Your story continues to be picked up by other news organizations in the United States and posted on their web sites and placed in newspapers. Thanks for your help.

Janet Gilmore, Media Relations,
University of California, Berkeley

Board of Governors urged to reconsider

As you may be aware, the Board of Governors has recently imposed a “cooling-off period,” during which time no public meetings, speeches, exhibits, installations, information tables or posters dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues will be permitted. Furthermore, university clubs, regardless of nature, will no longer be allowed to have information tables in the lobby or mezzanine of the Hall Building.

The imposition of such restrictions clearly curtails the rights to freedom of expression and assembly of Concordia's students and faculty. The rights to freedom of expression and assembly are fundamental rights enshrined in a number of international human rights treaties and are considered to be integral to the enjoyment of many other rights.

International law (such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, articles 19 and 21) does recognize that in certain exceptional circumstances authorities may be justified in imposing restrictions on the rights to free expression and free assembly. Any such restrictions must, however, be limited.

This includes the necessity of demonstrating that the restrictions are necessary in order to achieve certain objectives, such as respect for the rights or reputation of others, or to protect public order (the two permissible objectives which are most relevant to the current circumstances).

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the expert body charged with monitoring state compliance with the Covenant, has stressed that limitations of this sort, which apply to a number of the Covenant's rights, “may be applied only for those purposes for which they were prescribed and must be directly related and proportionate to the specific need on which they are predicated.”

Amnesty International is concerned that the widesweeping nature of the ban, which does not seek to distinguish in any way, for example, between peaceful events and events which may turn violent, is such that these limits cannot be considered to be proportionate to the need to uphold the rights or reputation of others or to protect public order.

Amnesty International has written to Rector Lowy urging the Board of Governors urgently to reconsider its decision.

The free and peaceful exchange of views and opinions is a vital human right. Any limits imposed by the Board should be those strictly necessary to avoid harm to others or to maintain public order. A widesweeping ban of the nature that has been imposed goes too far. It needs to be revised and tailored so as to properly target only those activities which can be justified by the Board as likely to lead to harm or disorder.

Rob Maguire, Amnesty International Concordia

Intimidation in the name of human rights

First, there was the violent suppression of freedom of expression by pro-Palestinian rioters. Then the ridiculous and pathetic resolution passed by the CSU [to pay the legal costs of those arrested]. Whispers, growing ever louder, that Palestinian rioters were not instrumental in their cause but actually destructive in their aims.

The shameful events of Sept. 9 should serve as a wake-up call to all Concordia students and administrators. Those who are concerned about the peace and tranquility on campus being shattered must make their voices heard.

There can be no place for groups who incite violence and spread hatred on campus under the guise of fighting for human rights. This is not an issue of religious affiliation or political beliefs. We are dealing with a group of individuals who have waged war on the very social values which we cherish as a democratic and free society.

The physical damage done to Concordia University property by the riot has already been repaired. The damage done to Concordia’s image and reputation as an open and free educational institution, however, will take much time to heal.

The most pathetic part of this ordeal is that those involved with the group actually claimed the appalling train wreck of a protest as a victory. Those who claim violence, intolerance, and intimidation as a victory should have no place on campus and should certainly not benefit from my student union fees.

The protesters may have stopped Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking, but they failed to extinguish the spirit of freedom and the eternal flame of the Torch of Liberty, which we will continue to hold high.

Steven Rosenshein, economics student

Violence could have been foreseen

I would like to join my colleagues and express my anger about the way the university administration handled the situation surrounding B. Netanyahu's visit on Monday and about the lack of an apology afterwards.

At the end of last week (preceding the event), it was clear to me, and to anybody I talked to, that the event would be accompanied by noisy rallies and probably violence. However, I trusted that the university would be able to guarantee the security of the university community, as promised at the time.

After all, if it was clear to me that violence was likely then it must have been clear to the administration — and the organizers of the event — as well!

As it turned out, the university was entirely unable to provide security and safety. Besides everything that did happen, imagine what could have happened if the evacuation of the Hall Building had resulted in a panic!

In conclusion, an apology seems in order for a promise that was not fulfilled. The event should not have happened, at least not at the busy downtown campus.

Dr. H. Georg Schreckenbach,
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

CSU executive denounces cooling-off period

The following is an open letter to Rector Frederick Lowy:

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, the Board of Governors passed a number of resolutions that are both unnecessary and inflammatory. As we understand them the motions can be summarized as such.

1) A ban on tabling for all clubs in the mezzanine and the lobby. 2) A continued ban on pamphlets, posters, discussions etc. on the Israel/ Palestine conflict. 3) The board gave you the ability to bypass the code of rights and responsibilities in expelling students.

The first motion will hurt all students and especially their clubs. Students pay to attend classes at Concordia; however, they also expect to take part in activities outside of the classroom. This ban will reduce the ability of clubs to inform others about their projects.

We also wonder whether this motion was in any way political opportunism. Two years ago the administration tried to ban tables in the lobby and this summer a planned food court on the mezzanine was postponed as a result of student pressure. It would be wrong and shameful to exploit the events of Sept. 9 to move ahead with these plans. After all, if they are a fire hazard today they have always been one (BoG's reason).

Second, a long-term ban on discussing the Israel/Palestine conflict is absurd. After the cancellation of the Netanyahu talk you spoke out as a defender of free speech, while at BoG you argued for this ban on freedom of expression. Where’s your consistency?

Moreover, what is the point of a university if we cannot discuss the important political issues of the day? This will only put fuel on the fire. Further-more, we feel this ban goes against the spirit of the discussions we had with you after Sept. 9 where you implied the moratorium would only be short-term.

Lastly, why did you ask the Board for special powers to circumvent the code of rights and responsibilities? The code is the mechanism the university decided upon to hear cases against students. Furthermore, after last year you should be aware of the ramifications of circumventing proper process. It is somewhat authoritarian for one person to have this amount of power over students.

In sum, these motions will only further inflame the campus. Why is it that you claim to want to diffuse our campus yet continue to act in a manner which will only further inflame it?

Concordia Student Union