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University of Windsor President pressures Student Union to not ratify BDS referendum following demand from pro-Israel donor

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University of Windsor Palestinian Solidarity Group (Photo: Facebook)

University of Windsor Palestinian Solidarity Group (Photo: Facebook)

In a historic victory for the BDS movement in Canada, the University of Windsor undergraduate students voted in a campus-wide referendum to endorse the BDS movement, and to push for university divestment from companies that are complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of international law. The University of Windsor Palestinian Solidarity Group (PSG) carefully followed the protocols in place for this referendum, having had their question vetted and approved by the University of Windsor Student Alliance (UWSA) lawyer, and having met with the university’s president, Alan Wildeman, in advance of the referendum. Over 10% (which is quorum) of voters cast their vote, with 798 out of 1393 votes in favour of divestment.

Why, then, has there been so much pressure from the university’s administration to prevent a ratification of the results? President Wildeman wrote a letter to students following the BDS victory indicating that several complaints about the process of the referendum required an investigation from the administration into its validity. Wildeman has also attended a recent UWSA meeting with the goal of preventing the UWSA from performing its duties by ratifying the referendum results. The undergraduate referendum does not fall within the purview of the administration. The UWSA has autonomous mechanisms in its by-laws that deal with appeals. There have been other “controversial” UWSA referendums that have not seen any interference from the administration.  So why are they interfering with this one?

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

A recent letter sent to President Wildeman from a Zionist donor, explicitly shows the kind of pressure that university administrations receive from the Israel lobby when the issue of Palestinian rights gains broad campus appeal. Donor Richard Spencer expresses his discriminatory views unashamedly: “I am reasonably certain that the majority, if not all, of this small percentage of the student body are of the Muslim faith, which promotes violence and hatred toward the Jews in the Middle East. … What is next? Christian students, too, will feel unsafe on campus because of this intolerant group?” He then follows that with an ultimatum to the university’s president: quash the BDS culture on your campus, or lose out on continued financial support.

While this kind of pressure on a university administration is commonplace, rarely do we gain access to such blatant displays. What may be the most disconcerting part is the university administration’s failure to publicly condemn Spencer’s statements, despite the fact the letter has been circulating for several days. It becomes much clearer to the average Joe why Wildeman’s administration is taking this referendum so seriously, when it appears clear that the referendum has followed all of the rules, and that it falls outside of the disciplinary purview of the administration to begin with.

Please sign Independent Jewish Voices – Canada’s e-mail petition to President Wildeman, requesting that he refrain from interfering any further in the UWSA referendum results, which is an affront to the principle of academic freedom—which as President of the university—he should be striving towards protecting.

Tyler Levitan
About Tyler Levitan

Tyler Levitan is the Campaigns Coordinator for Independent Jewish Voices – Canada. He is based in Ottawa on unceded Algonquin territory.

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53 Responses

  1. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 13, 2014, 10:36 am

    “Over 10% (which is quorem) of voters cast their vote, with 798 out of 1393 votes in favour of divestment.”

    It must have been a tiny fraction of a percentage over ten percent, since there are right around 14,000 full-time undergrads at U of Windsor. Last year, 1393 would have been less than a quorum, since there were 14,008 full-time undergrads.

    http://www.uwindsor.ca/45/fast-facts

    “A recent letter sent to President Wildeman from a Zionist donor, explicitly shows the kind of pressure that university administrations receive from the Israel lobby when the issue of Palestinian rights gains broad campus appeal. ”

    Come on. 57% of under 10% of the student body is not “broad campus appeal.” It is exactly the opposite of broad campus appeal.

    • hophmi
      hophmi
      March 13, 2014, 11:19 am

      Put through, please.

    • Sycamores
      Sycamores
      March 13, 2014, 11:36 pm

      hophmi,

      798 voted for

      595 voted against

      there was another 10 that voted none of the above

      your statement “since there were 14,008 full-time undergrads” is incorrect

      the number you supply was for full and part time students

      Official By-Laws for the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance

      http://www.uwsa.ca/app/uploads/media/official_by_laws.pdf

      see can you find anything here to help your case.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 14, 2014, 10:13 am

        “your statement “since there were 14,008 full-time undergrads” is incorrect”

        You’re right. But it would seem that all 14,008 are members, and that therefore, 1,393 would be under 10%, or just a shade over it.

        In any case, I don’t see broad campus appeal there.

      • annie
        annie
        March 14, 2014, 11:50 am

        I don’t see broad campus appeal there.

        you don’t see the sampling of who voted as representative of the student body. in the same way a poll of a thousand americans doesn’t represent trends in voting?

        if everyone is allowed to vote and these are the results it reflects the opinions of those who choose to vote. if there was any kind of broad campus rejection of bds don’t you think that would have been reflected in the outcome of the vote?

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 14, 2014, 5:30 pm

        Apples and oranges. Polls are calibrated to achieve a representative cross-section. A referendum is not. It sounds like BDS won the battle to turn out their activists, and that’s certainly a victory of sorts. But it is not the same as broad appeal.

      • Sycamores
        Sycamores
        March 14, 2014, 4:03 pm

        Hophmi,

        i hope this solves the problem you are having with the quorum guidelines.

        University of Windsor Students’ Alliance membership is 11,389
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Windsor_Students'_Alliance

        1393 is 12% well above the 10% quorum

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 15, 2014, 10:18 am

        I wasn’t having a problem with them. I was merely pointing out that when turnout is that low, it doesn’t tell you very much.

      • Sycamores
        Sycamores
        March 15, 2014, 7:07 pm

        Hi Hophmi,

        i believe a fair broad appeal is represented by the quorum.

        the whole reason for quorums is to prevent a very low number of people from having to much control. the University of Windsor Students Alliance quorum percentage of 10% is very fair and legal.

        According to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, the “requirement for a quorum is protection against totally unrepresentative action in the name of the body by an unduly small number of persons.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorum

        all members are entitle to vote but not all members have to for whatever reasons this is why quorums are useful otherwise the UWSA would be rudderless.

        there was more of a broad appeal for the BDS endorsement then there was for those against.

        but what’s more interesting is the poor turnout of pro-israel students to counter the endorsement.

        it look like Israel policies towards the Palestinians doesn’t have that much support from students in Windsor.

        R C Spencer behaviour reminds me of Alan Dershowitz disgraceful behaviour last year towards the Brooklyn College Political Science department for co-sponsoring the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) featuring Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler.

        hypothetically if a pro-Israel group decided to get the BDS campaign thrown out of campus and they follow quorum rules and win would you have the same issue? you don’t have to answer i’m just making a point after all it’s hypothetical.

    • pjdude
      pjdude
      March 15, 2014, 9:35 pm

      actually statistically speaking 10% sample size of total is more than enough to get an accurate predicition of the totals views.

  2. ritzl
    ritzl
    March 13, 2014, 10:50 am

    When a tiny minority of a tiny minority imposes public limitations on legitimate and free expression by the rest of us in pursuit its selfish, zero-sum advantage, only bad things can happen.

    Scary stuff.

    On the bright side, with these types of coercions becoming more common and public, more and more people are coming to realize that Israel doesn’t do “free,” at all. They point out that the Israelification of everything is an insidious, malevolent, manipulative, real thing and something to strenuously resist.

    Just in the last couple of days, in addition to this article:
    France: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/03/repeal-criminalize-activists.html
    Maryland: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/03/maryland-financial-penalties.html
    NYC: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/03/letter-iranians-blasio.html
    Northeastern University: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/03/northeastern-intimidated-suspension.html
    Barnard: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/03/barnard-students-palestine.html

  3. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    March 13, 2014, 10:51 am

    This is good that this letter is publicized, along with this Spencer’s contact information, (I assume his email address can be found on the web) so that people can get a hold of him and tell him how dirty and low-down his attempt to stifle debate and to insult these activists with lies actually are.

  4. Cliff
    Cliff
    March 13, 2014, 10:52 am

    Absolutely disgusting. The Israelification of these schools continues. And MONEY is the threat these Zionist racists/bigots use.

  5. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 13, 2014, 11:02 am

    “When a tiny minority of a tiny minority imposes public limitations on legitimate and free expression by the rest of us in pursuit its selfish, zero-sum advantage, only bad things can happen.”

    Such as aggressively promoting the idea that a proposition supported by 5.7% of a student body is a proposition that has “broad campus appeal.”

    • ritzl
      ritzl
      March 13, 2014, 6:17 pm

      @hophmi- I think it’s been explained here before that if percentage of eligible voters is the criterion, no school board or city council in the US would be legit. The rule is always that legitimacy is conferred by a majority of those energized and informed enough to vote.

      Even one agrees with you, this was still a democratic result which was overturned by ONE racist scumbag and his oligarchic checkbook in pursuit of his own very narrow interests.

      The pro-Israel “forces” are either going to have to increasingly tighten the screws, or come to a realization that they’re a minority and accept the consensus view on Palestinian rights. I believe the former is untenable, if not outright dangerous, over time.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 14, 2014, 12:20 pm

        @ritzl

        The pro-Israel “forces” are either going to have to increasingly tighten the screws, or come to a realization that they’re a minority and accept the consensus view on Palestinian rights.

        What are you talking about? Every pole done shows support for Israel about 4::1 – 6::1 over support for Palestine. They aren’t the minority they are a clear consistent large majority. Which is not to say Israel can’t lose in isolated votes all sorts of minority positions have strong support among non-random subsets of the population. But go to the NRA, NRLC, CPAC… and take a pole there and see how many people support the UN on anything.

      • pjdude
        pjdude
        March 15, 2014, 9:37 pm

        polls only tell you what not why

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 15, 2014, 11:21 pm

        @pjdude

        The argument was over what not why. ritzl was making a clam about numbers who believe not why they believe.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        March 16, 2014, 5:06 pm

        Every poll? Not even close. Actually it’s just the opposite. Other than the Gallup poll, which is a binary, non-reflective poll, I’d say that all polls (that actually ask representative questions) show that the sentiment for even-handedness is the predominant view.

        Just one example: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/03/collapse-americans-democracy.html

        Any of the PIPA/WPO polls done by the Univ. of Maryland show similar results, over years.

        Tightening the financial screws to enforce only one view is the opposite of the broadly-shared/consensus view of even-handedness.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 17, 2014, 6:12 am

        @ritzl

        I wrote about that poll at the time. Any poll of “do you support (positive adjective)” always polls high. You aren’t polling political opinion successfully with that sort of poll you are just polling how thoughtful people are when they are asked poll questions. The answer is they aren’t very thoughtful.

        The reason Gallup uses those binary polls is because they are far more reflective of how people actually think and vote in a situation where they have to decide between competing goods. Ask the question “do you support democracy in Iran” you probably get close to 100% yes. Ask the question, “should the United States start engaging in regime change operations so as to create an Iranian democracy” you poll much lower. That’s a bad thing in terms of measuring political opinion. What you want are a variety of questions which are stable, which tend to produce consistent results. Because then you are isolating whatever political opinion you are trying to measure.

        Tightening the financial screws to enforce only one view is the opposite of the broadly-shared/consensus view of even-handedness.

        Again this has been polled. Most Americans support “even-handedness”. Most Americans believe that our current tilt is about right, with a substantial group wanting a larger tilt towards Israel. Our current position certainly is not “even-handed”. Again that’s the positive adjective problem. Call “even-handedness” say “moral indifference” and look at how it polls. That shows you aren’t measuring what you think you are.

  6. Sycamores
    Sycamores
    March 13, 2014, 11:29 am

    I am reasonably certain that the majority, if not all, of this small percentage of the student body are of the Muslim faith, which promotes violence and hatred towards the Jews in the Middle East.

    Islamophobe, he should be made to explain his racist diatribe.

  7. amigo
    amigo
    March 13, 2014, 11:43 am

    Mr Spencer, I am not a Muslim and as a Christian I have not the least fear of feeling unsafe. As if you give a damn about Christians.

    What does make me feel unsafe are the illegal criminal actions and policies of the State of Israel whom I view as the leading threat to World peace.

    So please stop your anti Arabism and racist ranting and turn your efforts to gaining equality and rights for all Humans, not just Jews.

  8. justicewillprevail
    justicewillprevail
    March 13, 2014, 11:52 am

    That’s a pretty easy decision. Uphold your principles of free speech, democracy and free thinking, and tell this donor he can take his money elsewhere. Are you really so craven, so lacking in the principles that universities supposedly stand for, that you would sell them out to some unscrupulous blackmailing? You can’t find some principled donors? Then let someone else in who will.

    • JeffB
      JeffB
      March 14, 2014, 12:24 pm

      @justicewillprevail

      Are you really so oblivious that you believe that large donors don’t always make demands? There are very rarely such things are large “principled donors”. People are spending that kind of money want something. The recipient organization has to decide what they are willing to put up with in exchange for the money.

      I suggest you try fundraising a bit before blithely talking about how easy it is to find principled donors.

  9. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 13, 2014, 11:57 am

    It’s basically money versus student decency.

    They are doing okay in North America but losing in Europe.
    They flood Facebook pages with hasbara crap and they ally with extremist Christians. They throw money into elections. They have very few people on the ground.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1yffapqB6Y

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      March 13, 2014, 12:36 pm

      Are they even doing that well in North America? Yes of course at the moment they’re doing fine but this type of tactic breeds resentment and anger, first amongst those who campaign for justice but then in the wider community. People as a rule don’t respond well to bullying.

      Now here’s another question – when has Gentile resentment and anger ever worked out well for Jews?

    • Walid
      Walid
      March 13, 2014, 2:21 pm

      They will also lose in Canada; federal elections and most probably a new Prime Minister next year and Canada’s million Muslims will triple by 15 years. Over 50,000 Muslims and other Arabs live across the river and that’s surely giving Spencer nightmares.

      Isn’t Spencer’s letter threatening, racists and generally against the law?

      • lysias
        lysias
        March 13, 2014, 6:45 pm

        What’s with Harper’s extreme policies?

      • Walid
        Walid
        March 14, 2014, 1:40 am

        “What’s with Harper’s extreme policies?”

        Religion. The nation of Israel must be restored, Jerusalem must be a Jewish city, the second temple rebuilt, and the bad people purified with the ashes of a purely red heifer. To that end, Clyde Lott, a cattle breeder in O’Neill, Nebraska, is or was attempting to systematically breed red heifers and export them to Israel to establish a breeding line of red heifers in Israel. When all these good things happen, Jesus will return and make a last-call to the Jews; Arabs and other riffraff must not be in the vicinity, otherwise he won’t show up. .

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        March 14, 2014, 1:50 am

        “When all these good things happen, Jesus will return and make a last-call to the Jews; ”

        I bet it’s going to be the 12th imam and he’ll be introduced by a local Djinn with a madani accent who starts off by saying “unfortunately your first choice may not always be available in which case it will be replaced by a messiah of equal value”

    • hophmi
      hophmi
      March 14, 2014, 10:23 am

      It’s definitely true; Jews are not going to outnumber anybody, which is one reason why they’ve been the victims of persecution for so long.

  10. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 13, 2014, 2:46 pm

    Most Muslims are not interested in Zionism. Islam is not anti-Semitic.
    That would be Western Christianity.
    .

    • Castellio
      Castellio
      March 13, 2014, 3:34 pm

      Your third line is a tired trope, seafoid.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        March 14, 2014, 1:58 am

        Look at the data, Castellio

        This is from the Landesmeuseum in Zurich, Switzerland

        “From 1776 to 1866 Jews were only allowed to settle in Endingen and Lengnau. Because Jews and Christian were not allowed to live together, older blocks of flats had separate entrances for Jewish and Christian residents

        In the eighteenth century Jews had to purchase their right of domicile in the county of Baden every 16 years.

        Until the eighteenth century Basel levied a fee , only payable by Jews, for entering the town.

        Jews were repeatedly accused of having murdered Christian children to make their Passover bread. The charge of ritual murder led to the expulsion of all Jews from Berne in 1294 ”

        And the Iranians are the enemy, are they ?

      • Ecru
        Ecru
        March 14, 2014, 4:53 am

        @ Seafoid

        I’m afraid I have to agree with Castellio on this one. For all the bans you’d also have to explain why Roma – Christians btw – were not allowed into cities during the same period. Not just not allowed to live in cities, not allowed in in the first place!

        As for the “blood-libel” (oh what a dramatic name) similar charges were levied at early Christians and later on at suspected Witches. And again the Roma had to face parallel accusations of kidnapping – charges they still have to deal with occasionally today.

        It was always more about a “foreign” population (endogamous to a massive degree) living within a “host” population during traumatic times. Christianity may have made matters worse (when there’s only God or the Devil you’re kind of on one side or the other) but in many cases was just a handy framework to hang xenophobic feelings on rather than the source of those feelings.

  11. Pippilin
    Pippilin
    March 13, 2014, 3:22 pm

    I’m sure that not all donors in this case (or in any other in which Zionist donors are involved) are wealthy Zionists. How about getting other donors, who do NOT support the Zionist state of Israel, to threaten institutions like Windsor with withdrawing THEIR support if those institutions continue to succumb to anti-BDS extortion/blackmail?
    As to Mr. Spencer’s subtle comment in his letter implying that Israel is being singled out by BDS: well, of course it is!!! BDS is a Palestinian-originated movement targeting the oppressor– Israel. Now tell me why this movement would be boycotting a country with which it has no gripe?

  12. Castellio
    Castellio
    March 13, 2014, 3:37 pm

    I find it weird that he copies the letter to the Mayor and Police Chief of the City of Windsor, among others. Why them?

    • Sumud
      Sumud
      March 14, 2014, 2:21 am

      It’s called having a fat head, and is a big faux pas in business email etiquette.

      The sub-text is “look at all these important people who I’m cc’ing – therefore I too am important – you better do what I say, or else!!!”

      What a drainer.

      • annie
        annie
        March 14, 2014, 2:37 am

        The sub-text is “look at all these important people who I’m cc’ing – therefore I too am important – you better do what I say, or else!!!”

        that’s what i heard too. but it’s getting too hot, feeds conspiracy theories about certain people trying to threaten control..influence the community, which is – maybe anti semitic? argh. i better shut up

        sub-texts are challenging. aren’t they?

      • Ecru
        Ecru
        March 14, 2014, 4:54 am

        @ Annie

        Is it anti-semitic if it’s true?

      • annie
        annie
        March 14, 2014, 11:56 am

        of course not. my subtext (my thoughts) were crossed out, opting for a milder framing (hence threaten control becomes>”influence”) . what was obvious to me was that the letter writer was attempting to threaten the admin and control thru intimidation and the purse. but making that claim one is subject to accusations of racism, which is absurd.

  13. Balfour
    Balfour
    March 13, 2014, 4:19 pm

    Looks like I need to make a financial donation to Students for Justice in Palestine in honor of Mr. Richard Spencer.

  14. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    March 13, 2014, 4:24 pm

    1. Why did Mr. Spencer send a copy of his threat to the city’s Chief of Police?

    2. Isn’t his explicit threat some kind of a statutory violation?

    3. Has his firm received tangible benefits beyond the labor of the young people hired, from past cooperation with the college’s engineering department?

    4. Who made the letter public?

    5. Is there any action group within Windsor’s Christian community that can respond to Spencer’s allegations, particularly “Christian students, too, will feel unsafe because of this intolerant group”?

  15. Sycamores
    Sycamores
    March 13, 2014, 7:03 pm

    here’s R C Spencer reply to the students he will not hire if things don’t go his way.

    Pointed out that it will hurt the students he hires, rather than the ones with whom he is angry, Spencer replied: “It hurts students, I agree. I’ve got one I might not be able to rehire because of the stand I’ve taken … This is my form of boycott, isn’t it. I get they’re upset. But the effects of my stand are minimal. What the (Palestinian Solidarity Group) is doing affects the whole student body.”

    http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2014/03/12/engineering-firm-threatens-to-cut-ties-to-u-of-w-over-isreal-divestment-issue/

    did you notice the hypocrisy, he’s all for boycotting the university where the students endorse the BDS movement to boycott companies that are complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of international law.

  16. just
    just
    March 13, 2014, 7:51 pm

    “Spencer, a graduate of the university, wrote that his firm has supported the university for two decades by “providing extensive training and work experience to dozens of engineering students,” representing over $500,000 in financial support. He made it clear that, if the university administration did nothing to stop the referendum results from being confirmed, his support will end.

    “If not, my company will cease support of the University of Windsor and will not hire co-operative students from the (university’s) civil engineering department,” Spencer wrote.”

    http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2014/03/12/engineering-firm-threatens-to-cut-ties-to-u-of-w-over-isreal-divestment-issue/

    President Wildeman: Stand up to this threatening xenophobe and Islamophobe. Be done with him. He shames himself, his country, and his alma mater. You can do better. Be an example to, and an advocate for your students– to those presently enrolled, and to those that might seek enrollment in the future.

  17. Sycamores
    Sycamores
    March 13, 2014, 11:12 pm

    i wonder what Spencer would say about this

    A student executive’s office was broken into and vandalized on the eve of a controversial referendum at the University of Windsor.

    Jake DeJong, vice-president academic affairs, arrived at the university at 9 a.m. this morning to discover vandals entered his locked office the evening prior, ransacking it and defaced a Support our Troops flag with the Star of David and the word “ZIONIST” above it in blue spray paint.

    http://urbanitenews.com/2014/02/27/student-referendum-brings-crime-and-intimidation-to-uwindsor/

    • Sumud
      Sumud
      March 14, 2014, 2:32 am

      The perpetrators forgot to sign it “love from us jew-hating BDS’ers”.

      I smell a rat.

      • Walid
        Walid
        March 14, 2014, 5:14 am

        Students deferred vote last night to the general meeting On March 27th.

  18. gayjewjap
    gayjewjap
    March 15, 2014, 9:37 am

    What always bugs me about the threats coming from the Jewish establishment is, right off the bat, it is always about money. What scares me, it just plays right into the hands of real anti-Semites who always condemned jews for their financial control.

  19. ckg
    ckg
    March 17, 2014, 1:58 pm

    I see the UWSA election made the top story in the Windsor Star two days ago. Can you tell us what is going on there? It is hard to decipher. Is this a backlash?

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