Jewish student told, ‘you need to sit down,’ at RSU meeting

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An incident at the RSU’s semi-annual general meeting (SAGM) has led to allegations of anti-Semitism. (Ryersonian archives)

Tamar Lyons is one of the students who says she faced “personal attacks” at a Ryerson Students’ Union meeting Tuesday.

Lyons, a second-year media production student, said she was told by another student, “there’s too many of you here, you need to sit down,” when she stood to speak on a motion that asked the RSU to commemorate Holocaust Education Week. Lyons says she feels the comment referred to the number of Jewish students present at the meeting.

The incident, at the RSU’s semi-annual general meeting (SAGM), has led to allegations of anti-Semitism.

In a letter sent to RSU president Obaid Ullah, a spokesman for Hasbara Fellowships Canada, a pro-Israel campus group, said he was writing “on behalf of concerned Ryerson University students who are shocked and unsettled” after the meeting.

Robert Walker, the Canadian director of the group, said the RSU “has a duty to investigate this matter immediately and to take concrete, substantive steps to ensure that Ryerson University’s campus is not further poisoned by such anti-Jewish incitement and intimidation.”

The letter was sent to the RSU Wednesday. Later that day, Ullah told the Ryersonian that the RSU does take the reported incident seriously, and will begin an investigation.

Lyons said she met with Ullah and vice-president equity Tamara Jones to discuss the incidents and next steps. Lyons said she has also met with Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi.

In the letter written by Walker, which the Ryersonian has seen, it is alleged that anti-Semitic remarks were directed at Jewish students at the meeting, and that a “mass walkout” took place before the motion could be voted on.

After the motion had been discussed back and forth, the room lost quorum, meaning there were fewer than the 100 students present necessary to vote.

The meeting was adjourned shortly after, at about 10:30 p.m., without the motion having been voted on.

Speaking to the Ryersonian Wednesday, Ullah said he understood there were accusations that the Ryerson Muslim Students Association (RMSA) staged a walkout. But he added that the RMSA members had their own meeting to attend that night, and left the SAGM because of time considerations.

However, Mariam Nouser, president of the RMSA, said Thursday that the group didn’t leave collectively. She said that she herself was at the mic speaking when the quorum call was counted.

The group’s official statement says, “allegations that we organized or directed the loss of quorum are completely false and hurtful.” It went on to say that the group members “strongly believe in free speech (and) the right for all paying members of the RSU to put forth motions.”

Lyons says that the problem is not that the motion was not voted on, but that she felt her safety had been threatened. She said she did not feel safe in the room, she felt shaken and that she had trouble coming to campus the next day. 

 

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