Canadian University Lifts Suspension of Student Accused of Disrupting Classes

September 2004

York University, in Toronto, has rescinded its suspension of a student whom it had cited for disruptive behavior during two pro-Palestinian protests inside a building where classes were under way and where demonstrations are banned.

The university lifted the suspension against Daniel Freeman-Maloy, a third-year political-science student, after a provincial judge ordered that a judicial review of his suspension proceed on August 10.

Judge Gloria Epstein of the Ontario Superior Court, in a 10-page ruling on Tuesday, also issued an injunction against a disciplinary tribunal that had been scheduled to convene on Wednesday at the university. In blocking the tribunal, she said that it would put the student in a "procedural nightmare" that could "irreparably harm" his academic career.

York's president, Lorna R. Marsden, barred Mr. Freeman-Maloy from the campus on April 21 for making excessive noise with a megaphone and disrupting classes during protests in Vari Hall twice during the past academic year (The Chronicle, May 5).

The protests, on October 22 and March 16, involved vociferous confrontations between pro-Zionist and pro-Palestinian organizations on the campus. The university has maintained that all students are aware that its code of conduct specifically forbids protests in Vari Hall, a multipurpose building with a three-story rotunda and open architectural features that cause sounds to echo and reverberate.

In imposing the suspension, which was to have lasted three years, Ms. Marsden had invoked a rarely used power, called executive fiat, that neither requires a hearing nor permits an appeal.

Mr. Freeman-Maloy received a letter this week from the university confirming that his suspension had been lifted.

The university said, in an official statement acknowledging that Mr. Freeman-Maloy can reregister, that its "goal throughout this process has been to protect the academic environment and ensure that all York students understand and abide by established standards of student conduct."

But the legal action may not be over.

"We are going to sue the president for damages and possibly the university," said Mr. Freeman-Maloy's lawyer, Peter Rosenthal, who is also a professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto. Mr. Rosenthal, who in his law practice specializes in social-activism cases, said he had received letters of support for his client from academics in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere. "Ten years ago, this type of autocratic stance on dissent would not have happened," he said. "But in the post 9/11 era, regrettably, universities are cracking down on dissent."