McGill U investigates allegation of anti-Semitism surrounding board election

McGill University has launched an investigation into the case of a Jewish student who was not ratified to the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD). He was not voted in allegedly for supporting Jewish causes and opposing the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The BDS movement aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel through various boycotts against it.

Noah Lew, a third-year student at McGill, along with two other students were not ratified to the SSMU’s Board of Directors, according to his public Facebook post.

According to SSMU’s website, the Board of Directors supervises the management and administers the business and affairs of the SSMU.

The vote took place at the SSMU’s general assembly on Oct. 23, where BoD members are selected based on their qualifications and ratified afterwards. After a ratification vote, Lew and the two other students weren’t ratified.

“There was not one word of discussion or debate about my qualifications for the position,” Lew said in an interview. “I was simply voted down.”

Last year, a motion by McGill’s BDS Action Network sought to make it mandatory for the SSMU to support the BDS through the vice-president (external) portfolio.

On Sept. 17, the SSMU BoD unanimously decided  the motion was unconstitutional, according to the McGill Daily

Following this decision, Democratize SSMU, a group aiming to overturn this vote, started a campaign in support of the BDS movement.

According to Lew’s post, Democratize SSMU publicly targeted him in their campaign.

Lew said he was mentioned in the campaign “simply for being Jewish and having connections to a Jewish organization.”

However, Democratize SSMU responded to the allegations in a Facebook post, saying their campaign was launched in response to “a series of events over the past two years in which unelected bodies of students (the SSMU Board of Directors and the Judicial Board) made decisions which would deem BDS and other similar movements unconstitutional.”

“BDS politics should not have to play a part in the BoD’s decisions, actions or electability. These matters are outside the scope and jurisdiction of this unelected body,” the post read. 

The post stated: “Lew, an active member of Zionist organizations, could not separate his politics from his duties as a Director.”

Lew supported the BoD’s decision to call the motion supporting the BDS unconstitutional. 

In his Facebook post, Lew stated: “When I applied, an older Jewish student with a great deal of knowledge about SSMU told me that I needed to remove everything related to Judaism and Jewish organizations from my resume, or else I would have no chance of being even considered for the position.”

According to the group’s post, there have been “relentless accusations” towards Democratize SSMU since the general assembly. 

“We apologize for any harm that has been done, while at the same time reaffirming our aims, which are to make democracy at SSMU accessible, transparent, and meaningful, not to create division within the student body,” it read. 

But since the incident, the university administration has been quick to act on the issue, according to Muna Tojiboeva, SSMU president.

“They really did take all of our [SSMU’s and Noah Lew’s] concerns into consideration,” she said in an email.

Tojiboeva also said the university has sent multiple emails to the McGill community to inform staff and students, and ask for opinions and tips on the situation.

She added that in the email, Suzanne Fortier, Principal and vice-president of McGill, outlined the university’s course of action for the issue, which includes an investigation, establishing a religious and ethnic origin intolerance support line, and creating a task force for examining similar matters.

In addition to the university’s course of action, the SSMU approved a motion on Oct. 29 to have a special committee on anti-Semitism for the coming year, which would include representatives from a wide variety of Jewish campus organizations, according to Tojiboeva.

She said the university’s investigation will present its report to Fortier on Dec. 15, with the findings and recommendations being made public at a later date.

Photo by Aaron Hemens