SSMU pressured to call for SADIKOV’S RESIGNATION
Administration threatened legal action, violating student democracy
The Daily has been told by several sources close to the SSMU executive that at a private meeting on Wednesday, February 15, Mcgill Principal Suzanne Fortier issued a threat aiming to pressure the executive of the Students’ Society of Mcgill University (SSMU) into calling for student representative Igor Sadikov’s resignation.
Sadikov – an Arts Representative to SSMU, a member of the SSMU Board of Directors (BOD), and a former Daily editor – has been embroiled in controversy since his tweet reading “punch a zionist [sic] today” was widely disseminated on February 8. At a meeting of the BOD on Monday, February 13, the Board voted against a motion to impeach Sadikov, opting instead to censure him publicly.
At Wednesday’s private meeting, Fortier demanded that SSMU release a public statement demanding Sadikov’s resignation. According to sources, Fortier reportedly made it clear that, if the executive did not release the statement by the afternoon of Friday, February 17, the administration would release its own statement, condemning the executive team’s decision not to do so.
Moreover, Fortier suggested that, should the executive decide not to release a statement complying with the administration’s wishes, further legal action might be taken against SSMU. Based on reports of the meeting, it is likely that this would take the form of allegations put forth by Mcgill that SSMU had violated its own constitution in refusing to demand Sadikov’s resignation. If Mcgill makes a successful case against SSMU, this could have catastrophic financial consequences for the Students’ Society.
Under sections 12 and 13 of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that defines the legal relationship between SSMU and the University, the Society is considered to have breached the MOA if it violates its own constitution. The University could then give a notice of default, and thirty days following the notice the MOA can be terminated.
In case there is a dispute over the existence of a default, SSMU would have ninety days following the date of the notice to submit the dispute to arbitration. Upon determination that SSMU has violated its constitution in a manner that constitutes a breach of the MOA, the fees collected by the University on behalf of SSMU would be temporarily placed into a trust fund administered by a committee composed of two University representatives, two SSMU representatives, and one jointly selected chairperson.
In other words, Mcgill could potentially withhold all funds collected through student fees on behalf of SSMU, effectively depriving the Society of most of its income.
Asked to comment on Fortier’s pressure tactics, SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat condemned them unequivocally.
“This is an unprecedented and irresponsible violation of the political autonomy of student associations,” said Sobat. “The administration is placing funding for vital studentrun services at risk while undermining the integrity of decision-making channels already in place to respond to these issues.”
At a meeting on the morning of February 17, Fortier reportedly put further pressure on Sadikov to resign.
“This level of interference in student government is a new low for the University,” Sadikov told The Daily. “The Principal made it very clear that what she cares about in this situation is bending to political pressure from donors and alumni, rather than acting in the best interest of the campus community and respecting the decisions of the student groups affected.”
On Monday, February 6, Sadikov, himself Jewish, tweeted “punch a zionist [sic] today” from his personal Twitter account. In the ensuing days, the tweet has been widely circulated both within the Mcgill community and around the world, arousing a storm of outrage and threats against Sadikov, as well as calls for his resignation from student politics. Sadikov currently sits on the Legislative Councils of both SSMU and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), as well as on the BOD, which is SSMU’S highest governing body.
At a meeting of the BOD which took place on Monday, February 13, the decision was ultimately made to reject a motion to impeach Sadikov from his position on that body.
However, the BOD voted in favour of censuring him, releasing a public statement to this effect on Thursday, February 16. Citing the harm caused as a result of Sadikov’s tweet, the BOD declared it their considered belief that Sadikov had demonstrated remorse, as well as a sincere commitment to “[working] towards repairing the harm caused to the Mcgill community.”
The Bod’s statement also included an apology from Sadikov himself, in which he affirmed his commitment to “expanding [his] knowledge on Zionism by continuing and facilitating […] conversations, both within Jewish communities and in dialogue with Palestinian voices, based on a shared commitment to social justice and human rights.” Sadikov also agreed to “personally reach out to those who have felt harmed as a result of [his] tweet, including members of Zionist groups.”
On Friday February 17, roughly an hour before the initial 3 p.m. deadline set out by Fortier, the SSMU executive team released a statement in which they complied with the administration’s demands and asked for Sadikov to “resign from his position as a Director [of the SSMU BOD] and as an Arts Representative to the Legislative Council.” This stands in contradiction to the position taken by the BOD on February 13. The BOD is the highest governing body and four SSMU executives sit on it.
Fortier herself replied to a request for comment from The Daily on Fri- day afternoon. She stated in an email that at Wednesday’s meeting with the executive team, she and her colleagues had simply “explained that the SSMU had an obligation to abide by the terms of its own constitution,” and “shared [their] strong belief” that the executives should ask Sadikov to resign.
“While we normally do not recommend a course of action to the SSMU leadership,” wrote Fortier, “this situation is exceptional. With any incitement to violence, it is our duty to intervene.”
When a follow-up question pointed out that the tweet had not been intended as an incitement to violence, Fortier replied that “regardless of the intention behind the Tweet [sic], it caused members of our community to feel anxious and unsafe.”
As of Friday night, no further developments on this story have come to light; however, the online version of this article will be updated as necessary, and more coverage of the controversy surrounding Sadikov’s tweet will be forthcoming.
“This is an unprecedented and irresponsible violation of the political autonomy of student associations. The administration is placing funding for vital studentrun services at risk while undermining the integrity of decision-making channels already in place to respond to these issues.” —Erin Sobat SSMU VP University Affairs “We normally do not recommend a course of action to the SSMU leadership, this situation is exceptional. With any incitement to violence, it is our duty to intervene.” —Suzanne Fortier Mcgill Principal