By Laura Woodward
The vote in favour of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) joining the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in Wednesday’s annual general meeting resulted in chaotic protests.
The meeting started 45 minutes late because of the large turnout of over 100 student voters.
While it was not in the agenda for the meeting to begin with the motion for the RSU to join the Palestinian BDS movement, it was debated to be discussed first because members voted that the majority of students were present at the meeting solely for this motion.
After approval, long lines formed behind each microphone of students wishing to voice their opinion on the motion for RSU to cut ties from companies that do business with Israel.
By teaming up with the BDS movement, the RSU would not be prohibited to engage with products or companies doing business with Israel such as Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Costco, and Sears.
Products such as Sabra Hummus, which is sold at Ryerson’s Hub cafeteria, would be discontinued because of its alleged support of the Israeli military.
Mohommad Horreya, fourth-year business student and the president of Students for Justice in Palestine, brought forward the motion.
“I’d like to wrap up by adding urgency to this matter, you’ve got the Israli army, which I like to refer to as the best trained, best equipped, best fed terrorist organization in the world, yes they have reformed, but their entire purpose is terrorism,” Horreya said.
“That’s disgusting!” a student from the opposing side interrupted.
Student Michael David suggested the motion be postpone until the next meeting because students, such as himself, are uneducated about the issue and need more time to research to make an informed vote.
But David’s motion was defeated as speaker Leila Sidiqi argued that this motion has collected 1,500 signatures and the debate been ongoing for over nine years.
“If people are still not educated, I don’t know how much more time is needed,” Sidiqi said.
The discussion was cut short as members voted to go directly into a vote. The majority of members voted in favour of the RSU joining the BDS movement.
“This is f–cking bullshit! We all know the majority is not in favour,” the opposing speaker yelled.
“It’s unjust and clearly one-sided. This was not the majority of student body, walking in here we were already a minority,” said first-year radio and television arts student, Jessie Saunders-Drutz. “Our side was not heard and any option to have a referendum or postpone it a year was defeated instantly because of the unequal numbers. This wasn’t a debate, there was a predetermined answer before we even we walked into the room and that’s not a democracy.”
The majority of students voting against the BDS movement ripped up their voting cards and threw them to the ground. They held up signs reading: “Hate Off Campus” and “RSU Represent Me Too.” Students then walked out of the meeting and led a protest outside of the meeting room, shouting and crying in condemning the vote.
“It’s unfortunate that this happened and had to end in this way. [The students voting against this motion] should have kept calm and follow order so that the discussion could have continued,” Horreya said.
“Ryerson is supposed to be multicultural and that’s the main reason I chose to come here over other universities. But today, on Ryerson campus, I’ve never felt so belittled and uncomfortable in a room,” said first-year film studies student, Julia Bond. “The RSU is supposed to be unbiased and neutral. But they aren’t, they’re Palestinian.”
Bond said that the reason for the bias of the motion is because upcoming RSU executive, Jesse Roots was a speaker on behalf of BDS, which swayed the members’ voting decision.
“The meeting’s objective is for students to discuss and set direction for the upcoming months. RSU executives are students too and have the right to contribute,” said RSU’s vice-president equity and next year’s incoming president, Rajean Hoilett.
“It’s the harassment officer’s duty to foster a safe space for students to speak in and engage in the debate respectfully during these meeting.”
But the harassment officer refused to speak to The Eyeopener about the hatred students felt during the meeting.
“BDS is at its very core a manifestation of discrimination as it specifically targets individuals based solely on their nationality,” said Shannon Riley, the president of the student group Hillel @Ryerson. “[The BDS campaign] does nothing but create a hostile and intolerant environment for Jewish and Pro-Israel students on campus.”
Due to the walkout, the meeting was ended early as voting procedures couldn’t take place because there were less than 100 voters present.