Just in case you haven’t been paying attention to what’s happened this week in campus politics (and how could anyone blame you), there’s been quite the stir over Rector Nick Day.
On Remembrance Day last November Day made this speech, a somewhat alternative interpretation of a Remembrance address. To summarize it, he began with a salute to his veteran grandfather and then branched out to a number of different topics including the US government’s support of Pinochet’s regime in Chile, civilian casualties in Iraq, the Rwandan genocide and the “injustice of desecrating Palestinian Towns”.
Obviously, reactions were divided. Some supported Day for putting the spotlight on these issues and speaking his mind, but mostly the response was negative. Maclean’s posted a criticism of the speech on their On Campus blog and Queen’s Israel on Campus released a rebuttal.
A motion was tabled that night at AMS Assembly to censure Day for using his position to speak personal views that don’t represent his constituency. The motion passed 14-10 with 11 abstentions.
That motion was brought to Assembly by Craig Draeger as a student-at-large. Draeger is also a leader of the Campus Conservatives (and an editor here at the Journal), who have led the latest charge against Day.
This time it’s not just a censure—it’s an impeachment.
Rumour has it, a motion will be brought to Assembly tonight by the above parties to hold a referendum to impeach Day. Also, the Journal has learned that Day won’t be attending tonight’s Assembly.
But none of this compares to being called to the Principal’s office.
UPDATE (4:30 p.m.): Ontario MPP Steve Clark called on John Milloy, minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to condemn Day’s actions during question period at Queen’s Park today.
QUESTION PERIOD. MARCH 10, 2011
Mr. Steve Clark: My question is for the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Yesterday, Nick Day, a student representative at Queen’s University used his position as rector to accuse Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in a letter attacking your own federal leader. Will you condemn the comments of Mr. Day in writing in a letter to the chancellor and the board of trustees of Queen’s University?
Hon. John Milloy: All members realize that on university campuses it’s about finding a balance. We want to find a balance between the safety and security of students, along with providing an environment where individuals and groups can participate in debate and discussion on a wide range of issues that you and I may not agree with.
Earlier this year, as members know, the Legislature condemned anti-Semitism on our university campuses, especially in the form of Israel anti-apartheid week. Jewish students, as well as faculty, must be able to live, work and study at our universities without fear of discrimination or hatred and I know that all our institutions work hard to create that balance.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?
Mr. Steve Clark: Minister, you talk about us not agreeing, this House unanimously approved a motion by my friend, the member for Thornhill, to ban the prejudicial term Israeli Apartheid Week. All members of this House stood to condemn the word apartheid for what it is: hate-filled.
Now a student representative is not only using the term, but accusing Israel of genocide in a letter to your own federal leader. Will you, along with the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, condemn the actions of Mr. Day in a letter to the chancellor and the board of trustees? Will you do it?
Hon. John Milloy: Again, our government remains committed to fighting discrimination in all its forms. We have spoken out against anti-Semitism. We have very strong ties to the state of Israel. The Premier, of course, led a mission there earlier last summer.
This is about balance …
[Hon. John Milloy]
… discrimination in all its forms. We have spoken out against anti-Semitism. We have very strong ties to the state of Israel. The Premier, of course, led a mission there earlier last summer.
This is about balance. This is about campuses maintaining the right of students and faculty to have discussions about issues that the member or I or anyone in this House may not agree with, and at the same time protecting the rights of students to be able to study in safety. It is a matter of finding that balance.
I know from my regular meetings with university and college presidents that they work very hard to maintain that balance, and I have every confidence that these institutions will continue to provide the necessary environment for debate and discussion, and also for the safety and security of students.
UPDATE (5:20 p.m.): After meeting with Nick Day this afternoon, Principal Woolf posted the following on the Principal’s News page.
Meeting with Rector Day
March 10, 2011
This afternoon, I met with Rector Nick Day to express my concerns about an open letter he wrote earlier this week to the federal Liberal party leader. He wrote the letter as Rector, and not as an individual citizen.
The University’s position is that this was inappropriate.
The views in the letter are not the issue – agree or disagree, he is entitled to them – it’s the context in which he communicated his personal opinion.
Mr. Day’s views do not and should not be seen as being representative of those of the University or Queen’s students.
The university has been contacted by students, alumni, and others, who believe Mr. Day should no longer have the privilege of holding this office.
As a student-elected representative, the Rector is answerable to Queen’s student body. The issue is being discussed tonight at AMS Assembly.
I take this situation very seriously and I will be monitoring developments. In our conversation, I asked Rector Day to consider the impact of his actions and take steps to separate his personal views from the university position he currently holds. I am hopeful he will do so immediately.
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