York calls on student leaders to respect the academic needs of students

Now that classes have resumed at Canada’s third-largest University, President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri has called on student leaders to respect differences and to put the academic needs of York’s 50,000 students first.

"After a long period away from the classroom and with exams fast approaching, our 50,000 students really need to be able to focus on their academic lives," said Shoukri. "Unfortunately, the return to class has been marked by student leaders in open hostility towards other student groups and mounting demonstrations which have led to the disruption of classes for many students.

"It really is time for the student leaders at the organizational and club level to consider the effects of their actions on their fellow students," added Shoukri. "Every student at York has the right to go about their activities free from intimidation or disruption to their academic lives. It is impossible to claim to both lead and impede students at the same time."

Over the weekend, York has received a number of complaints about a range of protest-related incidents in the York Student Centre and in Vari Hall, ranging from issues of student politics to the Middle East and Sri Lanka.

"We will be vigorously pursuing these complaints. Students have a right to study in an atmosphere of personal safety, mutual respect and tolerance from other students – especially student organizational and club leaders," said Rob Tiffin, York’s vice-president students. "No one should feel singled out based on their political beliefs, nor should anyone have their classes disrupted, especially at this crucial time. We will be considering the actions of individuals and clubs in the recent days and will be following the processes laid out in the Student Code of Conduct."

In the fall term of 2008, the University relaxed regulations on the use of Vari Hall by student groups on an experimental basis. However, the University is once again reviewing all of its options with regard to the use of Vari Hall due to the continuing academic disruption by groups of students and others.

"We will continue to monitor the responsible use of Vari Hall and will be following through on the formal complaints at the same time," added Tiffin. "As of now, everything is under review."