York U Press Conference re: Banned Student Group

Hammam Farah speaking at York U press conference [Photo courtesy of Jesse Dylan]

In May 2013, York University banned a campus student group and trespassed one of its members (alumnus Hammam Farah) on charges of “academic disruption” for a rally held in the main large assembly venue on campus, Vari Hall.

OCLA’s correspondence with the York University upper administration regarding these sanctions, which deny freedom of expression and freedom of association to a university student group, are available here.

Today, Mr. Farah held a press conference on York campus to protest the sanctions imposed by the university. OCLA Advisory Board member Tyler Willis represented OCLA at the press conference. His speech is posted below:

My name is Tyler Willis and I am an advisory board member of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association. We have been following this issue very closely since the events of last May, when the Students Against Israeli Apartheid were stripped of their student group status, and York alumnus Hammam Farah was trespassed from the university property.

We wrote a letter to president Shoukri in June expressing our deep concern regarding the unacceptable, extreme, and disappointing decision to revoke the status of both the SAIA and Mr. Farah. The response we received to this letter was even more disappointing as Mr. Shoukri and the university defended the decision, claiming that SAIA’s peaceful protest in Vari Hall (an area designed for this very type of congregation), was a disruption of academic activity, and that the University’s action of revoking the group’s status was part of a “commitment to civil and human rights,” as president Shoukri stated in his letter dated July 18, 2013.

Most egregious of all the University’s actions in this matter, is the fact that they have refused to release any evidence to support their sanctions, despite our request and the requests of others. This demonstrates a clear lack of transparency on the part of York University, its President and its Senate, and further supports suspicions that the University’s sanctions are politically motivated and are themselves the greatest disturbance of academic freedom on campus.

Thank you.

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