From the York Free Speech Committee
From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)
Committee for Free Speech at York University | Defend Free Speech at York University | 3 May 2004
To All Concerned Community Members:
Last week, a 3rd-year undergraduate student of political science, Dan Freeman-Maloy, received a letter informing him of a 3-year suspension from York University, simply for using a megaphone on campus. The letter referred only to his “use of an unauthorized sound amplification device” at an “unauthorized demonstration”. He was given no information on how to appeal the suspension and was threatened with charges of trespass should he enter the campus grounds after 1 May. The suspension comes into effect on the same day that Dan is to begin work at the University’s principal newspaper, Excalibur.
Dan is a Jewish student who has been vocal in defence of Palestinian human rights, as well as in workers’ rights and other social justice campaigns. His suspension comes following a theatrical display on campus on March 16, 2004, in which students were commemorating the anniversary of the death of US peace activist, Rachel Corrie, who died last year in the Gaza Strip. At the display, Palestine solidarity activists were spat upon, kicked and threatened by an aggressive counter-demonstration. The university administration did nothing to protect the students. Instead, in an attempt to silence critical dissent on campus, they chose to suspend Dan.
Dan is due to complete his degree after one year. He has an excellent academic record and has been an active and respected participant in the life of the York University community. Despite the fact that the university’s own legal guidelines (Presidential Regulation #2) states that students be entitled to an administrative procedure allowing for student appeals (Section E, #3), Dan has been suspended by administrative fiat – in an impersonal letter without any possibility of appeal. Furthermore, York’s regulations specify that only serious infractions (such as a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code or illegal behaviour) warrant expulsion. This demonstrates total disregard for his academic future and his right to an education, as well as to York’s own procedural regulations.
This expulsion is not only callous toward Dan’s future, but is politically motivated. Megaphones have been used without authorization at countless other “unauthorized demonstrations” in Vari Hall without a single student being penalized, let alone suspended for 3 years, which is a de facto expulsion. Moreover, other students used a megaphone at this very demonstration without any consequences. Dan is being singled out and scapegoated because he is an articulate and effective Jewish advocate of Palestinian human rights. Or, as a member of York’s Board of Directors explained to a concerned graduate student outside a recent press conference, because he is a “rabble-rouser.”
President Marsden is not impartial in this matter, and her record is clear. She has consistently supported right-wing speakers on campus – “Campus Watch” host Daniel Pipes last year, Israeli Minister Natan Sharansky (a proponent of mass expulsion of Palestinians to neighbouring countries) this year. Last year, her administration also brought mounted police on to campus for the first time ever, and coordinated to have three organizers of an anti-war student strike arrested. York’s campus has become more and more repressive recently, as exorbitant and arbitrary “security fees” have been forced upon student groups hosting dissident speakers, as club activities have been prohibited in various public spaces on campus, and as certain student organizations have faced outright bans. This crackdown on critical dialogue – the cornerstone of higher learning – marks a significant step backward for all members of the York community.
We urge everyone who is concerned about maintaining York University’s campus as a progressive space, and all those intent on protecting student rights to free expression and assembly, to contact President Marsden.
We are demanding the immediate reversal of the decision to expel Dan Freeman-Maloy from campus for his political activities. York University prides itself on a reputation as a progressive space where critical development and engagement is encouraged, not stifled. If this reputation is to be maintained, the current administration must act accordingly.
York Free Speech Committee
How to get involved:
Below we have attached a letter to President Marsden demanding that she immediately reverse the suspension of Dan Freeman-Maloy, so that he can complete his studies and report for work on campus without fear of being charged with trespassing. Please sign the letter below and send it to President Marsden at firstname.lastname@example.org (no “e”) and cc email@example.com Or, better yet, write a letter outlining these demands yourself, and get whatever organizations you are a part of to draft letters of their own.
Letters can also be postmarked to:
Office of the President
4700 Keele St.
Canada M3J 1P3
For more information on our ongoing campaign, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, and we appreciate all of your help!
I recently learned of the 3-year suspension of Dan Freeman-Maloy for his use of a megaphone at an “unauthorized” demonstration. I find your decision appalling for a number of reasons. First, your decision is a violation of Mr. Freeman-Maloy’s right to freedom of expression as it is a response to his participation in political activity, not his use of a sound amplification device (many students have used a megaphone without authorization in Vari Hall – why is Dan being singled out?). Second, in contradiction with your own regulations on student conduct, your decision provided no opportunity for Dan to defend himself, nor an opportunity for an appeal. Third, this decision reflects a troubling pattern of silencing progressive political activity on campus (including banning tabling and leafleting for political purposes, and imposing exorbitant “security fees” on student groups). Finally, given York’s official commitment to the pursuit of social justice (as declared in the university’s mission statement), it would seem that you should support and actively create space for social justice activism on campus, instead of shutting it down.
I demand that you immediately reverse your decision to summarily expel Dan Freeman-Maloy. You are the head of a prestigious academic institution with a reputation for academic freedom and political diversity. I am requesting that York uphold its own standards.