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Conference called for U of R’s involvement with Israel

As humanitarian crisis in Gaza escalates, conference called by community members.

John Kapp/Michael Chmielewski – Staff Writer/Editor-in-Chief

Community members are concerned with any ties that the U of R might have to institutions involved in the occupation/ Michael Chmielewski
Community members are concerned with any ties that the U of R might have to institutions involved in the occupation/ Michael Chmielewski

On July 23, 2014, concerned students, faculty, and community members held a press conference that “calls on the University of Regina to end public security partnerships with Israel,” according to a July 22 press release.

The press conference comes as the conflict in the occupied territories intensifies with the death count rising each day.

The contentious issue is that the University of Regina is trying to establish, as the same press release reads, “’public safety’ institutional relationships with post-secondary institutions in Israel. One proposal focused on linking the U of R with Policing and Homeland Security Studies, in the Faculty of Law, at Hebrew University (HU) in Jerusalem.” Many issues were discussed at the conference, including what the occupation is like, war crimes, geographic realties, student safety, and student access to the region.

The Carillon, in January, broke the story about this potential partnership with HU. Read our initial story here.

Business professor Andrew Stevens was one of the panel speakers, amongst others, including political science student Amir Aboguddah, writer and researcher Valerie Zink, who used to live in Gaza, activist Florence Stratton, and petroleum-engineering student Malek Daoud.

Stevens outlined the immediate goals of the group at the conference, “First, we ask that the university sever all relationships and end discussions with Israeli institutions that have direct or indirect ties to the security and military apparatus until Israel complies with international law and universal standards of human rights.”

“And second, that we also ask the U of R to develop an ethical framework or guideline that would steer us in particular directions and provide some oversight to any partnership; this is not just about Israeli institutions, but down the road, as we broaden our campaign for internationalization of globalizing our presence in recruiting international students, we can no longer tolerate an ethical vacuum.”

Stevens outlined what the group requires of community members going forward.    He continued, explaining that “what we would like to see is a broader community voice. There are letters that have been drafted by organizations across Canada and we want to see that continue. We need help from the community in Regina and Saskatchewan. The Public Safety partnership has been referenced by the Premier, it’s a fact documented in Hansard.”

When asked if Dean Gaudes had involved other members of the business faculty or other faculties in general, Stevens had the following to say: “It is not unilateral. It is certainly the Dean and Associate Dean – Graduate Studies, Ron Camp who have taken the lead. I believe there were preliminary discussions before it was ever raised with the faculty. Once it was raised, it was raised very publicly. I say it is Associate Dean Camp who is involved because this partnership would go along with many of the other partnerships they have and fits into all of our other graduate programs. This partnership would go along with institutional partnerships we have in Finland and elsewhere. This would be one of many, but I believe it was pursued because we are developing this MBA Public Safety and it was a natural fit. The second part of that – ‘have there been other faculties that have expressed interest?’ – I have not spoken to them, I cannot publicly say that it has ever come up, that does not mean it is not there. I am certain that Andrew (Gaudes) has had conversations with people. I have not heard a single thing within the faculty in any correspondence we have seen that says, ‘Andrew (Gaudes), I want to go ahead with this partnership.’ I don’t know of any sources.”

There was no debate or dissenting discussion at the conference; it was essentially an information session from the five speakers. Zink, who used to live in Gaza, explained her take on the current occupation.

Amir Aboguddah talks to those who came to the conference/Michael Chmielewski
Amir Aboguddah talks to those who came to the conference/Michael Chmielewski

“After watching Israel unleash the ferocity of its military force on Gaza yet again I want to ask: what business does the University of Regina have sending its students to learn about public safety and the rule of law from a state that literally slaughters a besieged population of refugees. We know that Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinians have mired it in a crisis of legitimacy internationally. Establishing partnerships with universities abroad is a means for it to garner desperately-needed credibility on the world’s stage.”

Zink has been pursuing the story herself, and has filed Freedom of Information requests, and is looking to file more. “Finally with this FOI request I am hoping to find what incentives were offered to the U of R for its participation.” She finished by saying that “this partnership is morally indefensible. In aligning itself with Israel’s apartheid regime the U of R is placing itself on the wrong side of history.”

Some, aside from the media, did ask questions, including Professor of Classics-Political Studies Ann Ward.  Ward brought up the point that this a matter that could be discussed and debated at the next University Council meeting in terms of research. The University Council, and the community at large, is looking over a draft of a new strategic plan, which you can read about here.

 Ward said that this a matter that could be discussed and debated at the next University Council meeting in terms of research.

“Public Safety has been proposed in the current draft of the new strategic plan as one of the five research clusters that the University will focus its resources on. Perhaps the discussion concerning Public Safety as a focus of the University of Regina should be broadened to include the university community as a whole by placing it on the agenda of the next University Council meeting in September. “

“In this way we can ensure that all voices and points of view in Council are heard on this important issue”

Although Dean Gaudes was not at the conference, the Carillon was able to reach him for comment. When asked over email, “What is the current nature of the partnership, or institutional relationship, with Hebrew University?” Gaudes responded saying “There is no partnership or institutional relationship with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.”

So… what now?

To further clarify this, we sat down with Gaudes. We asked him “Is there any involvement, at any level, in any way between the two, between Hebrew University and the University of Regina?”

“There is not,” he said.

“There is no involvement, none. The messaging has not gone out, and I’d prefer to do that myself.”

When asked what he means, Gaudes responded saying “All I can say, with all the greatest sincerity, is that there is no involvement with Hebrew University right now.”

He explained that “There has not been any consistency in what we’re searching for in content of courses with what we want to deliver with the MBA Public Safety Management.”

“Here’s the message,” he said, “we do not have any relationship with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. We have explored it as having courses being delivered with our students in it; that’s been in the past that we explored that. We have found nothing that is consistent with what we want to deliver with our MBA Public Safety, and we don’t think we’re going to see one.”

“I’m going to leave it at that there is no relationship. We have no participation, we have no program, we have no involvement with Hebrew University of Jerusalem.”

We asked Gaudes, trying to get clearest understanding as possible, “So for the people today, at the press conference today calling for this to end…” Gaudes cut off the question outright, saying, “there’s nothing that’s started.”

In terms of the press conference and its general message, Gaudes responded that the graduate school is currently developing an MBA specialization in Public Safety Management, which was in response “to requests from the community for support in developing relevant, strategic leadership and management graduate education opportunities for middle managers and executives in the RCMP, Police, Fire, and other Emergency Services organizations in Canada. Work on this proposal has proceeded since fall 2012” Gaudes explained.

“Our Faculty has no plans for a joint MBA degree with Hebrew University in Jerusalem, nor any other institution for this program. As well, there is no partnership with Hebrew University proposed in the new MBA program in Public Safety Management.”

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6 comments

  1. If the u of r does break off conections with israel’s hebrew university I feel that my u of r degree will mean nothing. Those teaching at the university ate not those running the country so why would we blame them?

  2. That’s a pretty dramatic stance. Your U of R degree means nothing, if the schools chooses to cut ties with a country that oppresses it’s indigenous people? Although those teaching at the university may not directly “run the country” as you put it, Hebrew University is on illegally occupied Palestinian territory. As is much of Israel. Further, partnering with any institution normalizes apartheid, which is incredibly problematic to any school that has any interest in abiding by any sort of morals.

  3. This land this Canada the U of R stands on is on that land of an oppressed indigenous first nations people..i dont see any palestinians taken offense to goin to a university in this once barbaric country we call home..ironic isnt it?