York Free Expression Campaign

March 25, 2014 11:00 ET

Faculty, Students, Civil Society Groups Condemn York University for Rights Violations

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 25, 2014) - Civil rights organizations, student groups, and faculty members spoke out today against violations of civil rights by the York University administration. They condemned administrative suppression of the rights of student groups to free speech and free assembly. Speakers also protested a no-trespass order against York alumnus, Hammam Farah, for his participation in peaceful protest actions at York. The press conference convened on the ground floor of the York University Student Centre at 11 AM on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

"As a queer filmmaker and activist," says York faculty member John Greyson, "I'm sadly all too familiar with regimes that seek to silence and censor – starting with the Canadian government – and I'm proud to teach in a university that has such a vigorous tradition of activism and free speech. York must stop banning students and student groups – period."

"Of all the university's values, freedom of speech is among the most precious," adds Penni Stewart, an Executive Board member of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and a faculty member in York's Sociology department. "Banning students, curtailing student organizing and constraining speech with civility codes threatens these cherished values and the integrity of the institution."

Mr. Farah, who graduated in 2007 with a degree in psychology and political science, has worked with many York groups, including Amnesty International, the Student Christian Movement, and the York University Choir. In April 2013, the York administration issued a no-trespass order against Mr. Farah for his participation in peaceful rallies organized by Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA). The administration has issued warning letters against numerous SAIA members and rescinded the group's rights as a student club for six months.

"Our Charter Rights are under attack on our campuses," says Hammam Farah. "It's time to ask ourselves where post-secondary education is headed in Canada as our universities become increasingly run like businesses."

Speakers at the March 25 press conference included Tyler Willis, member of the Advisory Board of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association; Safiyah Husein, Vice-President Equity with the York Federation of Students; Hammam Farah; and York professors John Greyson and Penni Stewart.

The press conference was organized by the York Free Expression Campaign, a coalition of students and faculty members committed to a democratic university.

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