March 2009


apartheid-week-poster1Even though Equity Services at Carleton University is being tight lipped about both the complaints they received regarding the IAW poster and their legal justification for the ban, the Jewish Tribune has brazenly published one of the complaints.

Ariella Kimmell, vice-president, external, of the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students, filed a personal complaint with Equity Services at Carleton about the posters. She said the posters use ‘Nazi and Holocaust imagery’ to make the situation of the Palestinians in Israel look like that of Jewish people in concentration camps during World War II. (Jewish Tribune, Feb. 26, 2009)

Last week I spoke with a representative from Equity Services to file a complaint about censoring political speech and expression. I specifically mentioned that it is completely fraudulent to claim that Jewish suffering has a monopoly on the cartoon depiction of barbed wire, walls and military aggression. The representative was not there to debate with me, rather to courteously absorb my criticism and take notes.

I mentioned that there was a glaring double standard with activism on campus while showing the representative another article from the Jewish Tribune.

Called simply ‘Terror Built This Fence,’ the controversial presentation – which was at York and was on dislplay there for about two weeks before coming to Ottawa – arrived at the Atrium of the University Centre of Carleton University for one day only April 3.

The display itself comprises a 15-foot by 5-foot chainlink fence – a replica of Israel’s Security Fence – with photographs of Israeli suffering on one side, and terrorist beliefs on the other. The Israeli side shows about two dozen graphic colour pictures, including one of an Israeli emergency worker holding up a blood-soaked tzizit. It is hard to hold tears back looking at the photo of four yeshiva boys crying out in agony at the loss of their school mates in the attack last month in Jerusalem. There is a close up shot of a leg pierced with shrapnel. (Jewish Tribune, Apr. 13, 2008)

The representative from Equity Services had not heard of this event but she had only been with Carleton for about 10 months. However, when I asked Feridun Humdullahpur (Provost) about this incident, he said he couldn’t remember it ever happening! I told him that the fact he didn’t even remember was telling in and of itself and that I would be very surprised if the university did not receive formal complaints relating to the display.

This glaring double standard illustrates how the University’s claim of neutrality is demonstrably false. Why didn’t the university kindly remind the entire university community that “Terror Built This Fence” was not representative of the views or opinions of Carleton University like when Al Haq visited? Why did the administration not feel the need to remind everyone to be respectful and civil when debating controversial issues because of the “Terror Built This Fence” exhibit? Can you imagine the cries of anti-Semitism that would envelop Carleton’s decision to ban the “Terror Built This Fence” display because it was ‘likely to incite hatred’ or that it used ‘Nazi and holocaust imagery’ to make the case for Israel’s brutal subjugation of Palestinians?

Nonetheless, it would be a lie for me to say that the University took no action in respect to the fence display.

Eventually security came and asked the organizers to move the fence to a smaller place in the Atrium. (Jewish Tribune, Apr. 13, 2008)

The article that was earlier quoted (Jewish Tribune, Feb. 26, 2009) began with a statement not falling short from taking credit for the banning of the IAW posters.

Following B’nai Brith Canada’s full-page ad in the National Post demanding an end to ‘Hate Fests’ on campuses, Carleton University deemed Israeli Apartheid Week posters offensive and has banned them from its property.

When I called B’nai Brith asking about their defamatory ads in the National Post the secretary asked if I would like to contribute to their campaign financially. I was able to speak to Michael Mostyn. When asked about IAW, he told me that the term apartheid was ‘false’ and ‘repulsive’ in relation to Israel. He also told me that events such as this (IAW) would only further polarize any discourse on the subject. When asked if large advertisements in one of Canada’s national newspapers calling Carleton students anti-Semites and a legitimate event a hate fest was polarizing, he simply said ‘no.’

Carleton University President Roseann O'Reilly Runte (carleton.ca)

Carleton University President Roseann O'Reilly Runte (carleton.ca)

In response to the banning of the 2009 Israeli Apartheid Week posters at Carleton, over 100 students, professors and community members rallied in support of free speech and expression on campus (Feb. 26). The event consisted of a gathering to explain the current repression on campus relating to Palestinian solidarity and a symbolic silent march to the President’s office to publicly read a speech and deliver her a letter addressing their grave concerns dealing with the political repression on campus. While the speech was being read, Runte awkwardly stood by with CBC News cameras capturing the entire event. Runte responded to the speech by reassuring students that they are able to speak and are being listened to. She then went back into her office and locked the door, refusing an interview with the CBC cameraman.

I think your presence here is exactly an evidence that you can speak on campus. And the fact that I listened to you is a fact that you are heard. Thank you for coming here today.

In CBC’s reporting of the poster ban at the University of Ottawa, they made specific mention of Runte’s participation in public relations trips to Israel while President at Old Dominion University. When I asked Feridun Humdullahpur (Provost) about Runte’s public relations trips and mentioned that students were worried about outside pressure affecting university policy, he assured me that the university’s actions are not influenced by outside pressure or lobbying, including B’nai Brith’s recent ads attempting to bully students raising advocacy about Palestinian human rights.

In 2005, Runte filed a daily blog during her trip to Israel as part of the Israel Institute for University Presidents, a joint venture between the United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and a community relations council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. (CBC.ca – Feb. 24, 2009)

Following the protest at Carleton, students traveled to the University of Ottawa to join their fellow students to protest the poster ban on their campus. Unfortunately, protesters were not greeted by President Allan Rock and were instead greeted by police officers behind locked doors. For great coverage of the events click HERE.

ICA PRECONFERENCE PANEL:
Fair Use and Academic Freedom: Asserting Fair
Use Rights in Communication

Scheduled for Thursday, May 21st, from 1-5 pm, this pre-conference is a working session of about 40 communication scholars who will brainstorm research to analyze the problems of access to copyrighted material in the academic field of communication today, and to develop a proposal for addressing those problems further within our professional context. We expect that participants will look upon this event as the beginning of a project. The format will be that of a workshop; there will be no paper presentations. Cost: $25. To apply to participate, send a one-page document including: a short biography (one paragraph); and description (one to two paragraphs) of your interest and/or research on this topic, suitable for posting/publication. Send either in email text or Word attachment with “ICA preconference” in the subject heading to Patricia Aufderheide (atasocialmedia@american.edu).

Communication scholars need fair use to be able to do their work. Scholars and creators have increasingly found copyright restrictions to impose burdens harsh enough to affect the range, quality and type of work that we undertake. The recent rise of digital making and sharing practices, in combination with the growth of broadband distribution, has made this problem increasingly acute. In this process, the ideology of authorship–a reverence for individual authorship that is a legacy of 19th century Romanticism and that carefully excludes the social aspects of creativity–has been sedulously invoked by the publishers, distributors and content companies with which scholars and creators must interact.

Marginalized, by contrast, has been the underlying goal of copyright, to promote and reward the creation of culture. Similarly marginalized has been the recognition of art or expression not merely as finished objects but as practice, to borrow an insight from Raymond Williams, one of the founding thinkers of the field of communication.

Communication scholars have special needs to access copyrighted material in order both to analyze it and to create new work, as well as to teach effectively and support student creative and scholarly projects. Circulation of this work, not only in nonprofit environments but in the corporate world of distribution, is critical to its evolution and to growth of the field. Often neither the authors nor their publishers and distributors are well-informed about copyright and their options under the law. At the same time that scholars and creators have encountered obstacles to doing their work well because of copyright, they have also collectively found ways to assert their rights and develop tools to address the problem. For instance, as has been demonstrated dramatically and publicly since 2005, with the launch of the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, the copyright doctrine of fair use is a vital and useable tool to fairly and legally employ copyrighted material in new academic and creative work. In the wake of its success in changing industry practice, other creator groups, including media literacy teachers and film scholars, have publicly established their interpretations of fair use, through their professional associations. Communication scholars could build upon this example and extend the effort in the interest of their research and teaching.

The preconference is organized by Chris Boulton, PhD student in Communication at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Patricia Aufderheide, professor and director of the Center for Social Media in the School of Communication at American University. Sponsoring Divisions: Communication and Technology; Communication, Law and Policy; Philosophy of Communication; Political Communication; Popular Communication; Visual Communication Studies Division  It is partly supported by the Ford Foundation, through the Future of Public Media Project at the Center for Social Media at American University, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, through the Media Education Lab at Temple University.

___________________
C H R I S   B O U L T O N
PhD Student in Communication
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

In the wake of the University of Ottawa’s suspension and decision to dismiss Professor Denis Rancourt, some of the researchers working under Rancourt have decided to file a lawsuit against the university for breach of contract and misfeasance in public office.

See details in the press release below.

PRESS RELEASE: RANCOURT STUDENTS FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS
Tuesday, February 24, 11:00 a.m., lobby of Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa

On December 10, 2008, the University of Ottawa summarily, without notice consultation or due process, closed the laboratory of Professor Denis Rancourt, locking out its researchers, seizing equipment and derailing years of award winning scholarship in nanoparticle physics.  As a result of this ill-conceived plan, post Doctoral researcher Meizhen Dang’s employment was terminated after twelve years of dedicated research assistance. Master’s student Sean Kelly lost nearly six years of specialized research in the area of ferromagnetism and Master’s student Joseph Hickey has been bullied by the administration to abandon his fully funded NSERC research project under Professor Rancourt.
“Academic excellence and freedom at the University of Ottawa are under a profound attack when the administration takes a personal dislike to a certain professor” according to Joseph Hickey. “I came to attend the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at this University on a fully funded scholarship to work with a leading world expert in physics, not to be coerced and treated with such disdain.”
“Every day that we are locked out of our research jobs, the value of our scholarships diminish and the likelihood of regaining our research momentum decreases rendering the prospects for our scientific careers more doubtful,” explained Sean Kelly.
For Meizhen Dang, she is concerned about the lack of consideration and disrespect shown to longstanding researchers at the University of Ottawa.  “Had I known that after a decade of work I would end up by being unceremoniously locked out of my lab and having my research seized despite producing internationally recognized and award winning scientific results, I would have left this environment years ago.  What have I done to deserve this?”
After their requests to return to their academic supervisor and laboratory research group fell on deaf ears, the postdoctoral researcher and graduate students will file a joint claim against the University  and the Dean of Graduate Studies, Gary Slater for monetary damages relating to breach of contract and misfeasance in public office.  On February 24, 2009 at 11 a.m., in the lobby of Tabaret Hall, these students and researchers will announce their plan to take legal action against the University.  In so doing they also hope to encourage a broad ranging discussion on the fall out of the University’s crack down on scientific research and scholarship, which may encourage greater transparency in administrative procedures and basic respect for the students and researchers who are the lifeblood of academic excellence within the institution.
Initial press coverage: