By Brennan Doherty
Ryerson students took to the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Facebook page last Friday to voice their displeasure at the union’s repeated removal of a video that was posted on its page.
The video was created by pro-Israeli group Hamas On Campus. Its repeated removal by page administrators sparked outrage from students on social media, with one student threatening to file a lawsuit against the RSU.
Ryerson student Hailey Nicole posted a response to the Facebook group Saturday night, frustrated with the repeated deletion of comments written by her and other students.
“You’re discriminating against me based on my country of origin and I’m taking this straight to campus security, administration and everyone else until you’re nothing but dust. This is not a threat, it’s a fucking promise,” she commented on the RSU Facebook post.
The Eyeopener made several attempts to contact Nicole but she did not respond.
The video was originally shared to the RSU Facebook page on Friday by Ryerson student Ofer Ziberman. Page administrators removed the video but it was reposted by other students as many as 10 times. That night, the RSU posted a response on its Facebook page saying that it had removed the video because it was “racist and Islamophobic.”
The RSU’s response in the Facebook thread reads, “We would like to take this opportunity to remind folks that we have a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech both online and offline … we will continue to delete videos posted on our page that promoted hate speech rooted in, but not limited to, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and/or anti-Semitic sentiments and/or remarks.”
But a number of other students posting in the comment thread, as well as Facebook group ‘DROP RSU,’ complained that the RSU deleted the video from its page and still maintains an open stance against the Israeli government’s policies.
“The RSU tends to marginalize groups that do not agree with them or vote for them,” said ‘DROP RSU’ in a statement posted to Facebook. The group says the censorship of its comments violates their right to freedom of speech.
The RSU’s president disagrees.
“We ended the comments section on our page over the course of the weekend because it’s important for us to be working towards creating safer, more inclusive spaces and we’re responsible for the content that gets posted on our page,” Rajean Hoilett said.
“I think it’s very important for people to know the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech.” He added that the RSU has not received any notices of lawsuits.
Ziberman said that he shared the video in response to, he claims, the funding of Palestinian demonstrations by the RSU. “You want to tell me as a proud Canadian-Israeli[that] I should feel safe on campus when the one student union that is supposed to keep these things off campus is spreading their propaganda and inviting the entire student body to an anti Israeli protest … the RSU did not even condemn it … they sponsored it,” Ziberman said.
Hamas On Campus is an pro Israel organization set up by a group of university students in campuses across Canada and the United States. Its chief concern is “the activities of the MSA (Muslim Students Association) and SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine).
Both share anti-Israel and antidemocratic values,” according to their website.
Its four-minute video asserts that several current members of al-Qaeda (including a co-founder) were former members of MSA or SJP groups in the United States.
Any students who wish to ask questions, comment, or share concerns about the post are asked by the RSU to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
With files from Jake Scott