May 29, 2016

BDS has no place in student government

While it’s essential for institutions to practice freedom of expression, there’s no place for intolerance at a university. 

This is especially true in student government, where neutrality should be upheld.  

On Feb. 22, over 900 students gathered for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter General Assembly. 

Of the students who attended, 58 per cent voted in favour of a motion for the SSMU to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — a movement that condemns Israel through the boycott and divestment of Israeli companies, who allegedly profit from the violation of Palestinian human rights. 

Following the meeting, the motion went to an online vote, where students had the opportunity to officially decide the motion’s fate. 

Fortunately, the BDS motion was nullified — 57 per cent to 43 per cent. 

While the motion’s nullification is a relief for some pro-Israel students, the intolerance that’s spreading on McGill’s campus is unacceptable. 

McGill student Rayna Lew told the Montreal Gazette that targeted tweets by McGill BDS supporters towards Jews and Zionists has been frustrating

“[T]hese tweets literally insinuate that I am not entitled to a safe space as a Jew and zionist,” she posted on Facebook. 

Academic settings should be neutral spaces for students of diversified backgrounds to come and learn. With that in mind, it would be inappropriate for the student government to support the BDS movement, which marginalizes thousands of students who identify with Israel and rely on their student government to represent their concerns. 

The BDS movement has become a reoccurring issue on and off McGill’s campus. In the past year and a half, the motion to have McGill’s student government support BDS has been voted on three times, though unsuccessfully.

During this time, McGill’s administration remained quiet “out of respect for the student governance process,” according to a blog post by McGill Principal Suzannne Fortier. After the motion was shot down, Fortier stated “the administration of the University will have no part of the BDS movement.”

McGill’s administration shouldn’t be divisive on such issues that would result in marginalizing thousands of students, nor should they engage in acts of intolerance. 

Student governments should practice similarly appropriate behavior as their administrative counterparts. Motions that have an intolerant and divisive nature, such as BDS, shouldn’t be brought to the table in the first place. 

Erika is The Journal’s Lifestyle Editor. She’s a third-year English major. 

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