The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – Mar. 14, 2014
The University of Windsor Students’ Alliance voted on Thursday evening to defer the acceptance of the official report of the controversial Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction referendum.
The report will be received at the UWSA annual general meeting, March 27, while currently Alan Wildeman, University of Windsor president, has hired a lawyer who is an expert in human rights law to investigate the issue.
“Council did not pass that motion [to accept the referendum report], so [they] couldn’t table the report and it has been tabled to the annual general meeting”, said Chris Rudnicki, UWSA council chair, adding that the AGM was open to all students.
The referendum question was brought forward by the Palestinian Student Group. Mohammed Almoayad, president of the group, voiced his displeasure regarding the deferral.
“Obviously it’s upsetting,” he said. “We feel as though they’ve caved into the pressure from the administration [who has been] unreasonable with its response to the referendum … to crack down on the referendum and intervene.”
Administration shouldn’t have anything to do with the referendum question, according to Almoayad. He noted, however, that he understands the controversy surrounding the issue.
Wildeman hired Raj Anand, the former chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and a partner at WeirFoulds law firm, based in Toronto, to investigate complaints raised regarding the referendum question and procedural issues pertaining to the vote.
“Obviously it has a lot of controversy … when administration interferes in this sort of democratic process it’s something that is very threatening to the autonomy of the UWSA and the ability of the UWSA to make decisions in the future,” Almoayad said.
Multiple Jewish students expressed concern for their safety following what Windsor Police classified as a hate crime and break and enter the evening before voting for the referendum began and simply as a result of the referendum question being asked to students.
At least two students expressed that they had sought a letter of permission to leave the university law school, resolving not to return until the BDS movement is shelved.
“I am a Jewish student on campus,” said a second year law student who requested to remain anonymous. “What happened … everything kind of sunk in, what this meant and what the reality of this situation was going forward.”
“I appreciate everything the administration is doing, but until I have a solid confirmation as to how this is ending, I’m applying for a letter of permission to leave the school next year,” the student said. “I don’t want to be here … I don’t want to support anything the UWSA is and I want to disassociate myself as much as I can.”
Brent Patrick Taylor, a graduate student in applied psychology and a vocal supporter of the BDS movement, said he felt it was undemocratic for university administration to involve themselves in UWSA affairs.
“The motivation that seems to be here is that the university administration, lead by Dr. Alan Wildeman, has said ‘we don’t want you to certify or ratify whatever this BDS vote, so we want UWSA to tow the line.’”
Kyle Sousa, a fourth-year political science student, is confused as to why the UWSA was taking a stance on foreign policy.
“I don’t really see why the Israel, Palestine issue is being brought before students at all,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian … this student body has absolutely no need to worry or deal with anything like that.”
“Godspeed Dr. Wildeman, Godspeed,” said Sousa, regarding the investigation. “I think it is great that our university is taking this seriously.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.