A motion to release a statement concerning students’ right to freedom of expression and their right to use the advocacy services allotted to them was a heavily debated topic at the UMSU Board of Directors (BoD) meeting on Dec. 14.
The motion, asking for UMSU to release a statement, was brought to the BoD by Arij Al Khafagi, former senior stick of the University of Manitoba Nursing Student Association. Al Khafagi was suspended in November over social media posts regarding the conflict in Gaza that were deemed antisemitic by the university.
Al Khafagi outlined the contents of the proposed statement, which included acknowledging that a nursing student was suspended over posts made on social media, as well as “unequivocally and unconditionally” acknowledging and affirming students’ right to freedom of expression and their right to representation from the office of student advocacy.
Al Khafagi also asked for UMSU to condemn the university administration’s “overreach on a student’s right to freedom of expression” and to denounce any threats of violence against any student.
According to Al Khafagi’s motion, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association released a statement via email to all staff that supported “the right to free expression on our campuses.”
Some board members took issue with the first clause in the statement which reads that “UMSU acknowledge that a College of Nursing student has been suspended for their comments made on social media,” citing that they needed to “see something tangibly in order to take action.”
Al Khafagi said she was not able to show the images in question, but disputed the university’s allegations that what she had posted was antisemitic in nature and pointed board members toward a Free Press article and a letter to the editor in the Manitoban by Ben Baader, which described the posts.
Debate over the motion lasted almost four hours, with the BoD entering in camera sessions multiple times before it voted to rule the motion out of order at approximately 1 a.m. on Dec. 15.