By Suzanne Ma
Members of the Ryerson Arab Students Association are outraged after student services asked the group to leave the Metro Credit Union Lounge because of a new policy banning speaker forums from the area.
But the administration could not produce the policy or even prove that it exists.
Angered by the attempts to shut the event down, the ASA decided to go ahead in defiance of the administration.
The forum, called “Violations of Palestinian Human Rights,” drew a crowd of more than 60 people last Thursday.
Before the event, Ryerson’s Director of Student Services Marion Creery apologized to the crowd, saying the lounge needed to be cleared because of “safety and security” concerns.
Creery said that a new policy prohibits any events with speakers from being held in the Metro Credit Union Lounge. The ASA was asked to move the event to the Olive Baker Lounge — an enclosed room in Jorgenson Hall.
Five security guards accompanied Creery to the lounge. She agreed to allow the forum to continue after the majority of people in the audience voted to remain in the lounge.
Creery said the university was concerned that the forum would disrupt the flow of traffic through the hallway.
Audience members pointed out to Creery that a poster sale took place in the same lounge just two weeks before, and various events involving speakers have been held there in the past.
“We want to make sure all student groups express their opinions and concerns… we simply want to make sure it’s in an appropriate location,” she said.
Shereen Al Tamimi, the president of the ASA, had booked two guest speakers for the forum in the lounge three weeks in advance. But when she called RyeSAC Wednesday evening to confirm the space, she was told they had not been granted a permit to hold the forum there.
The ASA decided to go ahead with the event because it had been advertised around campus and the group couldn’t get in touch with the speakers coming from the University of Toronto.
The dialogue between members of the audience and student services went back and forth. Finally Mike Sawichi, a student, said “I think it is wrong and unfair what Israel is doing in Palestine. They have a military they use against women and children and civilians.
“I am here to engage a debate about it, not listen to members from student services tell us why we cannot have this forum here.”
Creery said the alleged policy only recently came into effect. Al Tamimi asked to see a copy of it and was not given one.
“No one is going to use this space. That you can be assured of,” Creery said. When pressed about producing the policy on paper, she said that RyeSAC and student services have been discussing implementing such a rule “for the last little while.”
Al Tamimi warned Creery that if any forums are allowed in the lounge in the future, it would be seen as a clear case of discrimination.
“This should never happen, not at any point should student services or RyeSAC take one side over the other.”
Students at the forum said the standoff between the ASA and student services reminded them of the situation at Concordia University, where there is a campus ban on discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
– With files from Fatima Najm