Students Declare No to “York Spirit” without Social Justice and Divestment! York Security threatens to arrest them all!

We, students and community members concerned about social justice and freedom of expression, decided to attend York Is U’s “Spirit Rally” in Vari Hall to bring attention to the University’s lack of commitment to social justice. While “school spirit” has a role to play in University life, we have decided to expose the York administration’s exploitation of school spirit to steer the York community in the direction of student apathy and de-politicization. While York is U did not end up attending, we carried through with our goal to address apathy at York with cheers, handing out pamphlets, and talking to students. Unfortunately, York Security threatened to arrest all participants for chanting in Vari Hall.

While the erosion of democratic student space under the pretense of increasing “student space” intensifies, the University continues to support Israeli apartheid and environmental degradation by its ongoing investments in military corporations and companies engaged in fracking, and it continues to increase tuition with the knowledge that future protests have been deterred.

We encourage students and community members not to support the York brand uncritically, but to ensure the University better reflects the community’s values as well as York’s own Mission Statement, which states:

A community of faculty, students, staff, alumni and volunteers committed to academic freedom, social justice, accessible education, and collegial self-governance, York University makes innovation its tradition.

We also sought to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the University administration for encouraging a spirit rally in Vari Hall while sanctioning our club for holding a rally on March 27 to demand divestment from Israeli apartheid. The administration also banned a Palestinian alumnus and member of SAIA by threatening to charge him with trespass if he were to enter York University property.

In response to these unprecedented sanctions, three leading institutions for freedom of expression, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), and the Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) have all condemned the York University administration. They also called on the administration to amend University policies which pose a threat to free speech, particularly the Senate Policy on Disruptive and/or Harassing Behaviour in Academic Situations, the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, and the Temporary Use of University Space policy.

We call on the York administration to immediately lift the sanctions and engage with us in amending these undemocratic policies in accordance with the recommendations of the civil liberties associations. And we demand that York University divests from Israeli apartheid in compliance with the resolutions of the YFS, GSA, CUPE 3903, and numerous student clubs and associations within the York community. We will not be silent. We will continue to organize for BDS and social justice, and we will continue to resist administrative repression with all democratic means and civil disobedience tactics at our disposal.

Yours Truly,

Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University

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