Letters to the Editor

Dispelling misconceptions

Re: “Rector Reprimanded” (November 12, 2010)

Dear Editors,

As President of Queen’s Israel on Campus (IOC), I extend congratulations to Craig Draeger for putting forward the motion to censure Nick Day for the disrespectful remarks he made this past Remembrance Day, and to the AMS Assembly, for passing the motion.

IOC supports this censure of Nick Day for two main reasons.

First, he abused his position and the podium. Instead of adhering to the decorum and spirit of Remembrance Day and paying tribute to our Canadian soldiers, past and present, he used this opportunity to argue his opinions on a range of controversial political topics.

By doing this, he demonstrated a lack of judgment, sense of his position and overall sensitivity to his constituents.

Second, he blatantly misquoted and misconstrued facts about Israel, its policies and its history.

We, the IOC executive, wish to take this opportunity to clarify and correct some of Nick Day’s factual inaccuracies.

In his speech, Nick Day wrote: “He [Mr. Day’s grandfather] would have been dismayed by the following order, issued by the Israeli Defense Force’s central command to its soldiers: ‘when our forces encounter civilians during the war or in a raid, the encountered civilians may, and even must, be killed.’”

Here is the original quote, taken from chapter two, part ii of Edward Said’s book The Question of Palestine. The differences are in bold font: “When our forces encounter civilians during the war or in the course of a pursuit or a raid, the encountered civilians may, and by Halachic standards even must be killed, whenever it cannot be ascertained that they are incapable of hitting us back.”

Nick Day’s omissions indicate intent to condemn Israel and inspire anti-Israel sentiment, even at the cost of false misrepresentation. From Mr. Day’s presentation, one might logically conclude that this quotation reflects current official government policy.

This is not true. To provide accurate context, this quotation was published in a theological pamphlet during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The quote was originally issued by Rabbi Abraham Avidan, an army chaplain for the Israel Defense Forces, not a combat officer or politician.

As a consequence, this quote is therefore not government policy; rather, it is a rabbinic interpretation of wartime Halacha (Jewish law). Lastly, following a condemnation of the pamphlet by Mapam (an Israeli political party), it was retracted.

Nick Day’s decision not to provide any historical background further emphasizes his desire to misconstrue ‘fact.’ Although we do congratulate the AMS on its decision, the vote of 14 yes, 10 no and 11 abstentions, indicates that there is a need for greater awareness of Nick Day’s error.

As students of Queen’s University, we have lost faith in the judgment and the abilities of our Rector to represent the student body as a whole.

This issue must be resolved by the Queen’s community.

Mitchell Rattner, ArtSci ’12,
President, Queen’s Israel on Campus

Thoughtful discussion

Re: “Rector Reprimanded” (November 12, 2010)

Dear Editors,

I was surprised to read that Rector Nick Day has been reprimanded by AMS Assembly for comments he made during the University’s Remembrance Day ceremonies.

From what I could gather from the Journal’s article, Day was reprimanded for “dividing student opinion” and “offending quite a few people” with his comments about present-day social injustices, such as “Pinochet’s regime in Chile, Aboriginal rights in Canada and the Rwandan genocide.”

I must ask, is this not what the University is for? To debate worthwhile topics, to stimulate discussion about important issues, to question people’s ways of thinking, even if it means occasionally offending their sensibilities?

Surely that’s what our veterans in the Canadian Forces were fighting for. They sacrificed their lives for the basic freedoms we enjoy today as Canadians, including the right of Day and anyone else in this country to discuss controversial matters and to raise questions about the kind of society we’re living in.

What better place than at a University’s Remembrance Day ceremony could Day have made the assertion that “present-day suffering” exists in the world, and that therefore we must always remember to honour the sacrifices made by people who have dedicated their lives to fighting against this suffering, to eradicating these injustices?

Far from “bringing negative attention to the University,” Day’s remarks show that Queen’s is a place where engaged, thoughtful discussion and debate can take place, free from and unfettered by censorship and repression—a luxury that people in many countries do not enjoy.

Personally, I’m proud that I’m affiliated with a University whose Rector is unafraid to be politically engaged, to speak his mind and feel passionately about his beliefs.

I hope more of this University’s leaders follow his example.

Dr. Robert G. May,
ArtSci ’95, Ph.D. ’03,
Assistant Professor (adjunct),
Department of English

Proud of Nick Day

Re: “Rector Reprimanded” (November 12, 2010)

Dear Editors,

On November 11, I had the honour of attending the Queen’s University Remembrance Day ceremony in Grant Hall.

For many of my 35 years at Queen’s, I have done the same thing on the same day.

Grant Hall helps me remember, as its walls ooze the history of a time when it was converted to a military hospital to care for our wounded troops from conflicts past.

The role of Rector at Queen’s extends far beyond its responsibility to students and has become elevated in the Queen’s community, based primarily on the excellence of the people who have been Rector in the past.

Our Rector gave those present at the ceremony a thoughtful, sincere and emotional presentation that reflected upon his grandfather’s decision to stand up and fight against the injustices of the day as he saw them.

He supposed the kinds of injustices in today’s world that might incite his grandfather to similar action now (at least that’s what I heard). Yes, it was a political statement, but so is this.

The politics of good and evil are not black and white but are too often addressed by “lines in the sand.”

Especially in a university such as Queen’s, all members of this community should be able to dialogue about sensitive issues with respect and tolerance for ideas and beliefs that differ from our own.

Nick, I am not sure whether you accurately captured the events in today’s world that would have driven your grandfather to make the decision that he once made to fight for what he thought was right.

Perhaps only your grandfather could answer those questions, but I do know that if he was watching you on November 11, he would have been proud.

Mark Publicover,
Program Associate,
Department of Geography

Our respectful Rector

Re: “Rector Reprimanded” (November 12, 2010)

Dear Editors,

I’m not really sure where to start with my feelings on last week’s assembly and the motion which was passed to censure Nick Day.

I suppose I’ll begin with my outrage about the throwing around of the idea of “the views of Queen’s students.”

Could someone please tell me what the views of Queen’s students even are? I was under the impression that we have a diverse population in which every member has the ability to think and create their own opinions and views.

Funny, I am a Queen’s student, and I obviously have different thoughts than some of my peers who were in attendance. So, does this make me some sort of deviant?

I am going against the all-known “views of Queen’s students” which were, according to the mover of the motion, not represented by Mr. Day? 

Of course, the mover knows how all Queen’s students feel, and this gave him the right to make such a statement.

The motion in itself was problematic. Remembrance Day is not, and cannot be, politically neutral. Furthermore, what is to be deemed disrespectful is a matter of personal opinion.

I found Mr. Days speech to be well written and needed while not at all disrespectful. That is my opinion. It’s unfair that the AMS assembly, who are supposed to vote on behalf of the students they represent, most likely took their personal feelings on the subject and made a decision.

Assembly took place less than 12 hours after the speech was made, which is an insufficient time to learn how the student population really feels.

Yes, some representatives received angry emails, but what about all the students who did not send emails because they were pleased? Those people generally don’t send messages.  Why is it that the opinions of some students were greatly valued over others?

I am a Queen’s student and I refuse to allow this decision to represent me. My understanding is that the AMS mission statement is to “serve and represent the diversity of students at Queen’s.” I am certain that this statement has not been upheld and that its meaning has been lost.

Kate Pritchard, ArtSci ’12

Terribly upset

Re: “Rector Reprimanded” (November 12, 2010)

Dear Editors,

I was terribly upset to read that the AMS voted in favour of censuring Rector Nick Day for his Remembrance Day speech. 

I was also perplexed, based on The Journal’s report, that AMS members seemed to be swayed by the Maclean’s blog post of Robin Urback, thinking that it brought “negative attention” to Queen’s. 

In my opinion, the blog post, although clearly written by something of a reactionary journalism student, brings quite positive attention to Queen’s, demonstrating that there is at least one informed and capable student who possesses political passion about global injustice.

Were I a prospective student thinking about coming to Queen’s, I would be extremely encouraged to know that a student like Nick Day was in a leadership role at the University. 

I’m surprised the AMS would think Queen’s reputation could be tarnished by a demonstrated concern with social justice. 

I think that the AMS should understand that many people share these concerns.

Margaret Pappano, professor,
Department of English

Building bridges, building hope

Dear Editors,

I confess, I didn’t wear a poppy this year. Whether this represents a serious political statement or not, I’m not sure. But seeing as a) this is Queen’s, b) this is Kingston and c) a federal election is likely less than a year away, I figured a moment of reflection upon my purported failure to reflect is warranted.

There is no doubt that the men and women who’ve served during the various conflicts Canada has been engaged in, including Afghanistan, are to be commended, as any public servant should.

To be sure, a soldier operating a Leopard C2 Tank in the unforgiving climate of the Near East faces a bit more risk to his life than does the person working behind the desk at the place where I get my driver’s license renewed.

And even if our guys have tanks and sleep in tents, and their guys have donkeys and sleep in caves, the lawlessness, corruption and general gangsterism that rules in Afghanistan is rather difficult to compare to the quiet peace we enjoy here in Canada.

However, the fact remains that war is made by those who make it. In the case of Afghanistan, the original logic of the mission was essentially a policing effort—to capture a wanted criminal and bring him to justice.

This quickly turned into a ‘war’ however, and thereafter even more quickly turned into an alleged ‘development effort.’ Hogwash. How one can reasonably expect to execute anything close to a relatively rapid or successful development effort given that kind of mission trajectory is beyond me.

Today, the logic justifying the age-old institution we know as the military fails to hold up to scrutiny. Surely, anyone would concede that the probability of a traditional ground invasion by a modern state is essentially nil.

Furthermore, experience shows us that if one’s goal is to build bridges (both figuratively and literally), and generally practice the art of ‘peacekeeping,’ showing up at your neighbour’s front door—or shoreline—with tanks and ammunition isn’t the best way to go about it.

Sending teachers might help. Or construction workers. Or even police officers.

We in Canada are blessed that our citizens are among the healthiest and most able in the world.

We can train our young men and women to do anything, and they will do it better than anyone.  

That being said, the question that confronts me now is this: given the choice, do we choose to teach the next young man how to build a bridge, or how to drive a tank? 

I’ll take bridges any day.  

Kyle Leary, MA ’11

Market Solutions

Re: “The climate crisis is now” (November 8, 2010)

Dear Editors,

Climate change is a serious issue, but it’s not the end of the world. But let’s assume it is, and that something must be done. What’s the solution? A carbon tax? Cap and trade?

Most of the solutions put forth rely on government to do something through economic action, yet it can be argued that when government attempts to solve one problem, it creates two more.

The most efficient answers lay in the radical yet totally misunderstood solutions of the free market.

Besides the ignorantly false claims that free-marketers support oppressive big business polluting the environment, there is a market solution, relying on tort law.

Every free market relies on protection of private property. And just as I don’t want someone dumping toxic waste on my front yard, I don’t want someone polluting the air I breathe.

During the industrial revolution, governments departed from their duty to protect people’s property in order to get in bed with big industry and allow them to pollute the environment.

The answer to protecting our environment lies in bringing back government to its original purpose of protecting property.

Businesses should bear the costs of their pollution, just as they bear the cost of labour and capital and other factors of production.

The way we ensure this is to get government out of subsidizing the burning of fossil fuels and from committing sins of omission when it comes to the environment.

Protecting the environment through tort law is better than through regulation that could bring about monopolies.

Tragedy of the commons is a scenario of environmental destruction due to public ownership of resources.

It is prevalent in the abuse of our environment, and thus the solution is private ownership, as owners take better care of property than the public does.

Just compare countries that are more socialist to less on their environmental records, like China to Germany.

Alexander Rotman, ArtSci ’13

The international answer

Re: “An International Queen’s” (November 2, 2010)  

Dear Editors,

An international student body is key for the reputation of any university that wants to be competitive in the 21st century.

As a student on exchange to Paris this year, I have witnessed firsthand that which Mr. Moore mentioned, the fact that Queen’s flies under the radar abroad.

Our University lags behind the University of Toronto and McGill in terms of recognition. So we have to get our name out there!  The quality of education that student receive at Queen’s is first class. Studying at one of the best schools in France, I have found that my training at Queen’s allowed me to easily overcome the challenges of learning at a foreign institution.

The key to the next step is what Mr. Slobodin articulates so well: exposure.

Maybe we haven’t been earnest about attracting international students in the past.

But that is exactly why we need to get serious in attracting these scholars to Queen’s like Mr. Slobodin says.

We face barriers in this already, such as the remoteness of our location and the existing “WASP” reputation that Mr. Moore alluded to.

In order to remain competitive nationally and internationally we have to find ways to overcome these barriers.

One strength that we could use more effectively with international students is our Orientation Week, which is so effective at integrating new students into the student body.

This isn’t a theoretical or a philosophical question.

It’s a question of tangible benefits and how to get them. International students bring big tuition fees, a raised international profile and government funding.

Three excellent reasons to increase the international contingent at Queen’s Univeristy.

Jordan Ray, ArtsSci ’12

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