News  AUS Vote on POLI 339

Arts Undergraduate Society Council Votes on Summer Course in Israel

On Wednesday, January 30, approximately 30 members of the McGill community attended the AUS biweekly Legislative Council. This spike in attendance was spurred by the proposed creation of POLI 339, a summer course to take place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The meeting lasted from 6 pm until around 9 pm. The majority of the meeting was spent discussing POLI 339. A motion was scheduled to approve the participant fee of $1,000 associated with the course.

Those in favour of the course, by and large, argued that the course was an “academic opportunity.” Some argued that this “exclusively procedural” vote was being turned into a “proxy vote” for debates concerning Palestine. It was argued that voting against this fee would be hypocritical since the AUS Legislative Council had voted in favour of a course to take place in Italy.

Those opposed to POLI 339 reasoned that the motion was political; by approving the fee, AUS would be endorsing the course, they argued. They maintained it was wrong to endorse POLI 339 because Israel participates in ongoing settler-colonialism through its occupation of Palestine. Many opponents said the vote was not a proxy vote; rather, it was about students of all backgrounds being able to access the course. Opponents argued that students holding certain passports, students of Palestinian descent, and/or students involved in pro-Palestinian activism could be detained at the Israeli border, as in the case of American student Lara Alqasem who was detained for two weeks in an Israeli border detention facility. Endorsing such a course would create unequal opportunities for McGill students based on nationality, race, ethnicity, and political opinion, according to the dissenters of POLI 339.

Endorsing such a course would create unequal opportunities for McGill students based on nationality, race, ethnicity, and political opinion, according to the dissenters of POLI 339.

In a statement following the vote, McGill Students in Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) has alleged that “many students who spoke against this program [were poorly treated].” Students who spoke against the motion were allegedly filmed by other members of the gallery. Additionally, a representative from World Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies Student Association’s (WIMESSA) point of personal privilege was repeatedly and harshly dismissed by the speaker. The point of personal privilege was about the emotional discomfort of Palestinian students at the candid discussion of villages from which their families were expelled. According to Robert’s Rules of Orders, which govern AUS Legislative Council meetings, points of personal privilege relate to matters that may affect an individual’s comfort or safety. A number of other points of personal privilege were addressed before the representative to WIMESSA’s point was rejected.

The Legislative Council voted for a confidential vote. All gallery members were asked to leave and representatives voted on ballots rather than by raising their placards.

According to anonymous sources, the vote was 13 for, 14 against, and four abstentions. After the vote, the rest of the agenda was tabled to the next meeting.

SPHR hailed the vote as a “victory,” while supporters of the motion were heard discussing ways to bring the motion to higher governing bodies.

This article was edited for clarity on February 15, 2019. The following sentences were added:
“Many opponents said the vote was not a proxy vote; rather, it was about students of all backgrounds being able to access the course.”
“According to Robert’s Rules of Orders, which govern AUS Legislative Council meetings, points of personal privilege relate to matters that may affect an individual’s comfort or safety. A number of other points of personal privilege were addressed before the representative to WIMESSA’s point was rejected.”