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Carleton board meeting cancelled as students block access
Group demands school steer clear of firms that do business with Israel
About 200 students, shouting slogans about democracy, blocked access to a Carleton University meeting room on Tuesday. A campus group, Students Against Israeli Apartheid, was involved in organizing the protest.
Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Citizen
Carleton University administrators were forced Tuesday to abandon a meeting of the board of governors when approximately 200 students, yelling, chanting and shouting slogans about democracy, blocked access to the meeting room.
The students effectively occupied the atrium of Robertston Hall, preventing several board members from attending a meeting that included, among other agenda items, consideration of the university’s operating budget. While campus safety staff were much in evidence, they were unable to ensure access to the meeting for arriving board members.
“Unfortunately, the student demonstrators would not allow a number of the board members to get through (the crowd) to attend the meeting,” university spokesman Jason MacDonald said. That, he said, forced the administration to cancel.
The students claimed to be protesting the administration’s decision to prevent them from attending the board meeting and to debate a motion calling on the university to divest pension funds from companies doing business with Israel.
A campus group, Students Against Israeli Apartheid, which was involved in organizing the protest, said the executive committee of Carleton’s board of governors blocked a motion seeking debate on the issue from being added to the meeting agenda, and notified it that only a prearranged group of students would be allowed to attend the public meeting.
The administration has taken the position that its pension fund committee has already reviewed the university investment program. Last fall, Carleton amended the rules governing the plan to state that “environmental, social and governance factors should be considered in investment decision-making.”
SAIA, however, wants Carleton to divest money from companies that deal with Israel, which they claim is violating international law in its relations with the Palestinians. The board’s executive committee turned down the student motion because it felt the pension committee had already addressed the issue.
SAIA spokesman Aidan Macdonald denounced the meeting as an “illegitimate process” because all the students who wanted to attend the meeting were unable to do so. He defended the students’ willingness to “shut down the meeting” as the consequence of the university ignoring their concerns.
Jason MacDonald, meanwhile, pointed out that the meeting room had a fire code capacity of 75. The university simply could not accommodate a couple of hundred students. Instead, the administration asked the student groups to identity representatives to attend the meeting.
“They declined,” said Mac-Donald, adding the rejection came with a threat that, if every student who wanted to could not attend the meeting, then “hundreds” of students would gather to “disrupt” the meeting.
“There is no way we can allow the university to be run by threats,” he said. “When you get to the point where you have groups of students telling the administration, ‘We intend to disrupt your operations,’ that’s frustrating because it interferes with people’s efforts to focus their energies on making Carleton the best place it can be for students.”
Source: Ottowa Citizen