This month the Concordia Student Union (CSU) endorsed the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions” movement. Rather, 1,276 members of the 35,000-member undergraduate union voted “yes” to the referendum question, “Do you approve of the CSU endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel?”
This endorsement follows a series of similar endorsements at student unions including Ryerson, the University of Regina and York University, which aims to see universities end all financial ties with Israeli businesses for its perceived treatment of Palestinians.
While discussion of the merits and demerits of BDS belong at a university campus, instituting conformity of opinion through forced student union dues does not. By endorsing BDS, the CSU is sending a clear message of exclusion to those fee-paying students who disagree with BDS. What is worse is that these students have no choice but to associate with the CSU in order to complete their studies at Concordia. Why should a student union be entitled to mandatory dues and take positions on international (or federal or provincial) issues that are not related to students’ interests, and in regard to which the student population disagrees.
The CSU should consider their counterparts at the Queen’s Alma Mater Society (AMS), who believed so strongly in a politically-neutral student union that they enshrined it into policy, committing their union to “a general policy of political neutrality” on issues outside its mandate. I hope this year’s cohort of DSU councillors will agree that a position of political neutrality can, as the AMS says, “better foster openness and inclusivity than a politicized [one].”
The JCCF’s Campus Freedom Index penalizes student unions who take blanket political stances on issues outside of its mandate, such as BDS. Rather than creating an environment where all students feel free and welcome to voice diverse opinions on campus, endorsements like these create an environment of fear and exclusion for students harbouring “unendorsed” views about important issues.