SSMU pres­sured to call for SADIKOV’S RES­IG­NA­TION

Ad­min­is­tra­tion threat­ened le­gal ac­tion, vi­o­lat­ing stu­dent democ­racy

The McGill Daily - - News - Ma­rina Cupido

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.”

Tweet con­tro­versy

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.”

Re­cent de­vel­op­ments

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

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