University of Windsor students feel unsafe after referendum
President Alan Wildeman launches full investigation into vote over boycott of Israel
University of Windsor president Alan Wildeman is concerned about the safety of some of his students in the wake of a controversial referendum.
Last week, someone broke into the office of Jake De Jong, the vice-president of academic affairs for the University of Windsor Student Alliance. The suspect spray painted the Star of David and the word "Zionist" on a Support Our Troops flag hanging in his office.
Windsor police are investigating it as a hate crime.
The break in happened the night before students started voting in a referendum on whether to support the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The BDS movement asks individuals, corporations, and governments to boycott companies that produce in Israeli-occupied areas of Palestine or companies backed by Israeli government.
The UWSA accepted a petition from the Palestinian Solidarity Group to hold the referendum that would, if it passes, make the UWSA officially endorse the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions campaign.
DeJong said he was "shocked" by the vandalism.
"I wasn't expecting this sort of thing," he said.
President responds on Facebook
Wildeman issued a statement Sunday on the school's Facebook page.
"The University will not tolerate any practices, by any member or group of its community, that target specific individuals or entities on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, religion, or any other personal characteristic," Wildeman said in a statement issued Sunday. "The University of Windsor in the strongest possible terms does not support actions that compromise academic freedom or the safety and security of any of our students.
"The University of Windsor will be uncompromising in its commitment to continue to be a place that is welcoming and safe for all students."
The referendum has passed but Wildeman said he has received a number of complaints about the referendum process.
"We are launching a full investigation of these complaints, and we will provide further information as this investigation unfolds," Wildeman said.
Wildeman on Tuesday declined to offer CBC Windsor Morning host Tony Doucette details of the complaints and concerns of students.
"A lot of students have expressed their concern. They don’t want to be caught in a situation where they feel that they are, somehow as a result of UWSA, no longer welcome on campus," Wildeman said. "It’s not only Jewish students. Many students have expressed concerns about what is happening on campus."
Wildeman refused to answer whether there is racism on the campus of the University of Windsor.
"There [are] 7 billion people on the planet. We're an 18,000-person microcosm of the world, with people from 80 countries. I'm not going to say what happens anywhere in the world does not happen on a university campus," Wildeman said.
Issue raised in Parliament
Essex Conservative MP Jeff Watson raised the issue in the House of Commons later Monday.
He called the BDS campaign "deceitful" and "one-sided" and "misguided."
"I rise to condemn recent anti-Semitic vandalism at the University of Windsor," Watson said. "The deceitful BDS movement has no place on Canadian campuses. In fact, it is against everything our universities stand for and creates an environment of intimidation for Jewish students and Jewish staff."
Wildeman said he has talked to "many, many Jewish students," who are concerned.
"We will not tolerate anything that sees any one student see less welcome that anyone else.," Wildeman said.
"This type of heinous act should be condemned," UWSA vice president of external affairs Mohammad Akbar said.
"The entire organization stands behind Jake and the UWSA strongly condemns any acts of hate speech, violence, vandalism, and intimidation against any student," the UWSA said in a statement.
"They are there to support the interests of all students," Wildeman said of the UWSA.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Wildeman posted a letter to the UWSA, asking it to delay any decisions about the referendum until the University has had time to investigate the complaints.