Advocates are calling for the defunding of Montreal’s Concordia University, accusing the school of having taken inadequate action in regards to antisemitism on its campus.
This comes as the university is currently dealing with multiple cases of legal action from the Jewish community.
Lawrence Muscant, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is among those calling for the university to lose funding. He also wants to see Concordia’s leadership resign.
Mascant is accusing the university of having failed to uphold its own stated codes of conduct, failed to protect Jewish students on campus, failed to publicly denounce and defund the “antisemitic” Concordia Student Union and of having failed to deal with agitators on campus.
Half of the university’s funding comes from government grants. The university also receives money from donors.
This week, the university came under fire after it was accused of telling Jewish students they could not set up a table on campus that called for the release of hostages – amid there being a risk of bad actions by “radical groups.”
Jewish students opted to set up the table anyway and did not face further opposition from the administration.
In an email to True North, a Concordia spokesperson denied that the university told Jewish students they could not set up a table – saying that they were instead asked to not set it up at the same time as a pro-Palestinian display.
“We did not tell students they could not set up a table. We learned a few days ago that the Concordia Student Union had given permission to two groups, one pro-Palestinian, the other pro-Israeli, to have events on the mezzanine – a space the CSU manages, at the same time, on the same day.”
“We requested that the events be held at different times,” added the university. “Since reservations for that space are made on a first come-first serve basis, the group that registered last, Start Up Nation, was asked to reschedule their event.”
“They were offered a new booking time as well as a different space on the same day and refused both.”
In a statement, Jewish groups Hillel Montreal and Federation CJA said “while we are glad the gathering was ultimately permitted by Concordia University, the initial refusal to ban on a specific day reflects an inability to protect students’ safety and security.”
“Preventing Jewish students from assembling for ‘safety’ only emboldens extremist groups that seek to intimidate, oppress and silence those who differ from their worldview.
Concordia is also facing new legal action from the Jewish community.
As reported by The Suburban, Concordia, its President Graham Carr, the student union and the anti-Israel group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights have been served legal papers by Attorney Neil Oberman – who is representing a Jewish student.
The legal letter claims that the student plaintiff, who is remaining anonymous amid fears of reprisals, has been “exposed to aggression, bullying, threats of violence and antisemitism on campus, because of the failure of Concordia University, SPHR, Concordia Student Union, and Bara Abuhamed (a Pro-Hamas student) to act in accordance with their legal and moral obligations.”
Among other things, the demand letter is seeking that the university’s president provides, in writing, “steps that will be taken to provide physical safety and security to all students regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or other protected group; how Concordia University will dismantle the SPHR on campus; how Concordia will stop funding the CSU until the hate is removed from this student union; what measures Concordia University will take against students employing antisemitic statements, violence, harassment and/or bullying; what measures Concordia University will take to remove anti-Semitic graffiti and literature from the campus; how Concordia University will remove Bara Abuhamed from campus and enjoin him from enrolling in any courses; and how it will stop anti-Semitic behaviour on campus and restore a proper learning environment.”
At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Oberman defended his client’s decision to pursue legal action against Concordia.
“Don’t get the message confused. They will talk about free speech, assembly and political rights. All those are completely acceptable, but what this is about is stopping free hate, free terrorism and hate assembly. That is what we need to focus on to create an environment where students of all types can go to school without being bothered,” Oberman said.
This latest legal action comes in addition to a $15 million dollar class-action lawsuit launched against Concordia and its student union in November. The latter accuses the university of failing to adequately respond to antisemitic activities on its campuses.
There have been several antisemitic incidents at Concordia since the Hamas terrorist attacks of Oct. 7.
Notable incidents include a brawl that broke out between students protesting the war in November, which led to three injuries and one arrest. During the incident, one woman, who uses “they/them” pronouns, was accused of calling a someone a “k*ke” (an antisemitic slur), while a University of Montreal professor present at the rally told a student to “go back to Poland, sharmouta (wh*re in Arabic).”
While Concordia’s spokesperson said it could not comment on the specifics of legal proceedings, she defended the university’s record.
“Concordia has clearly condemned antisemitism and any kind of violence or intimidation. The university has also taken several measures on campus to ensure our community’s safety, including increased monitoring of events and demonstrations as well as adding supplemental personnel when appropriate, meetings with student groups, and the creation of a committee with expertise in mediation and conflict resolution.”
“Note that any form of racism including antisemitism is strictly prohibited and that any community member experiencing such treatment can make a complaint under Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities.”
The university also says it is following up on already complaints made, increased anti-discrimination workshops and will soon launch an anti-hate campaign that will first focus on antisemitism.