By Don McHoull
The botched attempt to shut down the Palestinian human rights event last week is a good example of everything that’s wrong with the way campus administrators operate.
Instead of coming out and admitting they were afraid of violence breaking out at the event, the student services department made up a phony rule about events with speakers not being allowed in the Metro Credit Union Lounge.
Clearly this rule is total bunk. Events with speakers have been happening at that Jorgenson Hall lounge for years. RyeSAC held one of their election debates there last year, and Judy Rebick has hosted serveral panel discussions.
Very rightly, the Arab Students Association felt the new rule was aimed at them. There is no evidence this rule existed before last week. Even Student Services director Marion Creery admits the new policy was only under discussion.
Creery compounded the error by extending the ban to prevent any events from taking place in Metro Credit Union Lounge, after angry students in the audience questioned her about the policy.
Blocking events at this open lounge, which is located across from the Hub Cafeteria, will hurt the quality of student life at Ryerson.
Many events formerly held at the lounge, including career fairs, panel discussions and the annual poster sale, will have to be relocated or cancelled.
Ryerson already has a shortage of venues for these types of events. Shutting down the Metro Credit Union Lounge, in what seems to be a misguided attempt to stifle political debate, will hardly help the situation.
Ryerson administration seem to be afraid that campus debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will turn Ryerson into another Concordia, where political debate has led to violence.
But I think administrators are underestimating Ryerson students. Once the panel was actually allowed to start, the audience and panel members were both very well behaved.
Being held in a large open lounge helped the event draw a large crowd, but there was none of the pushing or shoving that the administration feared.
A university campus should be a place where free discussion of controversial ideas is encouraged, not shy away.
Ryerson is not unique in its fear of political debate on campus. This past weekend, the University of Toronto shut down a Palestinian solidarity conference because the event excluded people who didn’t agree with a certain set of political beliefs.
Concordia has actually banned discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian issue on campus.
Before Ryerson starts moving in that direction, it should give students a chance to show they can discuss the issue without resorting to violence.