SAFS letter to Sabine Friesenger, President of Concordia Student Union

December 9, 2002

Ms. Sabine Friesenger
Concordia Students Union
Concordia University
Montreal, Quebec
H3G 1M8

Dear Ms.  Friesenger:

We are a national organization of scholars whose goals are to promote academic freedom in teaching, research, and scholarship and to uphold the merit principle as the basis of academic decision-making regarding students and faculty.

Based on our reading of media reports, we write to denounce the actions of the Concordia Students Union (CSU) in banning Hillel from normal participation as a club at the University.   As a recognized club, Hillel deserves to be treated fairly, that is,  according to the same rules that are applied to all  clubs.

It is our understanding that the decision to ban Hillel, thus freezing its operating budget and its ability to use university space, was taken at a hastily called meeting, attended by only 9 of 27 councillors, who voted at midnight.  Further, it is unclear that the action Hillel was charged with committing (distributing brochures providing information about volunteering for the Israeli Defence Forces) is actually an offence or was approved by Hillel itself.  Hillel was also not given a chance to explain itself, and there was no attempt by the CSU to investigate the matter before the meeting to ban Hillel was called.

In the context of recent events at Concordia that include a riot by pro-Palestinian supporters that led to the cancellation of a scheduled speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the invitation to and appearance by Svend Robinson, Judy Rebeck and others to speak at Concordia in violation of the administration's moratorium on issues dealing with the Middle East, your actions may be interpreted by many as a deliberate provocation, which will only further diminish the
public's opinion of the CSU.

The Academy is a precious entity, the only institution in society whose reason for existence is to search for truth and ommunicate what is known about the human condition and the world in which we live.   To subvert the principles of the Academy -- reasoned debate,  freedom to associate, and civility  for  the CSU's, or anyone's, narrow political
purpose would be repugnant.

We call on the Concordia Students Union to revoke immediately its ban on Hillel.

Clive Seligman

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