York University issues statement on response to recent student protest

The following statement, issued by York University, outlines the University’s actions in response to the March 16, 2004 student protest involving York student clubs Hillel and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights:

Both Hillel and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) were aware that, as of February 1, 2004, Vari Hall, an academic building, was no longer available for events. This deadline was imposed in response to previous events that disrupted academic lectures for our students. Nonetheless, on March 16, 2004, approximately 20 members of SPHR decided to stage an “impromptu” demonstration and around 100 members of Hillel quickly counter-demonstrated. The result was the disruption of classes in the Vari Hall building. The police were in attendance at the University’s request but were not deployed and the crowd eventually dispersed.

While we understand that one side may see the other’s demonstration as a provocation, nonetheless both clubs were aware of the rules and knew that they were not permitted to  demonstrate in Vari Hall. As a consequence of the counter-demonstration, it was much more difficult for York security staff to deal with two demonstrations versus one.

Consequently both Hillel and SPHR had their privileges suspended for one week while the situation was investigated. From the University’s point of view, particularly as exams approach, we must ensure that academic activities of York community members come first. We will not allow approximately 100 demonstrators to prevent the 55,000 members of the York community from going about their academic lives in a safe and secure environment.

On March 26, 2004, letters were sent to the presidents of the relevant student groups informing them that the temporary suspension of club privileges would be lifted as of Monday, March 29, 2004. Student clubs were reminded that they are signatories to a Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that requires them to abide by York University’s Student Code of Conduct. The letter also warned that future infractions will result in disciplinary proceedings. 

As a University, we call upon the leaders of the respective communities to support York as it deals with these difficult global issues, and to encourage students to express their beliefs in a way that is respectful of the rights of others and consistent with the best values of Canadian society.