Concordia University's expulsion of two student union leaders is radicalizing Zionist and anti-Zionist Montrealers.
Concordia expelled and banned Laith Marouf and Tom Keefer after a supposed scuffle with security guards July 20. The incident occurred after Marouf allegedly spray-painted pro-Palestinian graffiti on the side of a now-demolished building on Concordia property.
The university says its decision "comes as a result of an assault on Concordia University security guards and the uttering of a death threat by one of the individuals," according to a letter on their Website. But according to a statement put out by the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the university rector, Frederick Lowy, made his decision "solely on the basis of statements made by Concordia security guards."
The CSU says the students have been presumed guilty without a fair trial. "We're operating under a system here of guilty until proven innocent," says CSU researcher David Bernans. "Concordia would have had to have proved that Tom and Laith did what they said they did, and it's difficult to do that when you have twelve witnesses saying they were not violent and the security was violent."
Bernans says he doubts the university will make good on its threats to press criminal charges. "The cops did not press charges because they knew it was ridiculous," says Bernans.
"Twelve witnesses say guards are the ones who were being violent. They know there's no chance of going through and convicting Tom and Laith for anything."
It is not clear whether charges could be pressed against Marouf; he says his father is a diplomat, so he has diplomatic immunity.
A joint statement put out by the expelled students accuses the university rector of not following university protocol. "Dr. Lowy, has appointed himself as judge, jury and executioner in this matter," reads the statement. "He has made no attempt to ascertain the facts of what really happened on July 20th, and he is behaving in an unethical, bullying, and illegal fashion.
"As much as we would like to engage in a detailed rebutting of the specific allegations that Mr. Lowy has made against us concerning the events of July 20th, we believe that the most appropriate place for doing so would be at the University's Rights and Responsibilities hearing board or in a court of law, where at least a semblance of fairness and due process are available."
The university claims the two were not students when it banned them from university property, since neither was enrolled in courses. But the CSU argues they were students according to the university's code of conduct, which lists three definitions of students. The third definition says students are "persons registered during a preceding academic term." The pair was enrolled last year.
Bernans says the expulsions are just the latest in a series of attempts to repress campus activism at Concordia. He says the Concordia administration denied the student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) the right to use university space for its events, implemented a new policy limiting postering for all Concordia student groups and refused to allow student groups to book a large hall for events.
Both sides have received their respective support. Concordia has received a letter from the executive of the Concordia University Faculty Association and a favourable editorial in the Montreal Gazette. The SPHR, the Canadian Federation of Students - Quebec, Professor Lillian Robinson, chair of Concordia's Simone de Beauvoir Institute, and Noam Chomsky back the two students.
Laith Marouf and Tom Keefer are contesting the expulsion. Supporters are planning more actions to reinstate the students. However, the SPHR postponed a large march titled "End Israeli Colonialism - Unite for Justice" - which was scheduled for September 15 - in light of Tuesday's attacks on the U.S.
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