No stance is the wrong stance

The Society of Graduate and Professional Students' (SGPS) recent decision to not take a stance on the bombing of two universities in Gaza was careless and lacked transparency.

At their annual general meeting in August, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) voted to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in reaction to Israeli military action in Gaza.

The SGPS is a member organization of CFS, but decided to distance itself from the vote. SGPS President Kevin Wiener told the Journal last week that they were unable to send a SGPS delegate to the meeting, as three members of the five-person SGPS executive are law students who conduct legal work over the summer.

Time conflicts happen, and juggling school and work can be difficult. As elected officials, though, it's the SGPS executive's foremost responsibility to represent their constituents. That means showing up to significant meetings, or sending a proxy to represent them.

On the surface, the SGPS’ stance is in some ways understandable. The Israel-Palestine conflict is a highly divisive issue and the SGPS can’t necessarily take a stance on behalf of thousands of member students.

However, deciding to distance itself from an issue is just as active of a decision as choosing to vote. Before making this decision, the SGPS should have consulted with their constituents and given them a chance to voice their opinion.

Boycotting Israel may be a contentious topic, but that doesn’t mean organizations should steer clear of it entirely for fear of unrest.

Even if the SGPS executive chose to distance themselves from the BDS vote, they should have at the very least released a statement condemning the bombing of these two universities, as such a statement would send a powerful message to the Canadian government.

Despite the conflict’s divisive nature, the SGPS had an opportunity to unite students — not under a pro-Palestine or pro-Israel banner, but under a love of knowledge and education, which knows no borders. As students of an educational institution, we should be standing in solidarity with our peers on the other side of world who’ve been killed and barred from a fundamental right.

At this stage, what’s most important is for the SGPS to consult their constituents, so that their future actions on this issue are representative of their members rather than their fear of rocking the boat.

Journal Editorial Board

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