York U to probe clashes on campus

TORONTO — York University announced last week that it will launch a probe into recent clashes on campus relating to the Middle East.

On March 16, York president Mamdouh Shoukri announced the creation of the Task Force on Student Life, Learning and Community. It will be composed of seven faculty members and seven students and/or alumni from the university. It’s slated to deliver a preliminary report to Shoukri by Aug. 31.

York University said it formed the task force “to review concerns about the student environment” on campus.

The move was welcomed by Jewish students and communal leaders.

Jewish students have complained of a toxic atmosphere on campus arising from Israel’s recent military incursion into the Gaza Strip.

On Feb. 11, about 100 anti-Israel protesters barricaded Jewish students in a Hillel lounge and shouted anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs. Police were forced to escort Jewish students from the lounge to ensure their safety.

Other anti-Semitic incidents, including graffiti and verbal attacks, continue to be reported on campus.

“Recent events on campus have raised serious concerns over whether our most cherished values and commitments are being undermined by excessive conflict, intolerance and even intimidation,” said the task force’s terms of reference.

“We are pleased that the university has taken into account the deep concerns expressed by our community,” said David Koschitzky, chair of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

“We will lend support to this task force with the expectation that it will lead to a campus that respects civil discourse and the fair enforcement of the rules,” said Daniel Ferman, president of Hillel at York.

“We also urge the York administration to address the immediate safety concerns affecting Jewish students on campus prior to the Aug. 31 deadline of this task force,” he said.

Speaking to The CJNlast week,Rob Tiffin, York’s vice-presidentof students, said the university is encouraging students and alumni who are interested in serving on the task force to submit letters of intent by Friday, March 27.

Patrick Monahan, the dean of Osgoode HallLaw School who will become York’s provost on July 1, will lead the task force.

According to the university’s terms of reference, the task force’s primary mandate will be to develop “principled recommendations that reflect this university’s unwavering commitment to fundamental values of free expression, free inquiry, and respect for genuine diversity of thought and opinion.”

The terms of reference lay out the following questions for the task force to answer:

•“Are the university’s current policies and practices adequate to ensure that the free exchange of ideas can occur in an environment free of discrimination, harassment or intimidation?”

• “Are there measures that can and should be undertaken to enhance the learning environment for students at York, both inside and outside of the classroom?”

•“How do we provide opportunities for students to be intellectually challenged, exposed to provocative issues and discussions, and encouraged to examine their beliefs and decisions?”

“Are the university’s current policies and practices regarding the use of community space by individuals and groups appropriate?

•“How should the university respond to incidents or behaviours that do not meet the community’s expectations with respect to tolerance of and respect for diversity of views of members of the York community?”

With files from AndyLevy-Ajzenkopf