Students at Queen’s University are deciding whether or not their rector, Nick Day, should be impeached, after he wrote a public letter, signed with his position, to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff praising the controversial campus event Israeli Apartheid Week.
On March 7, Ignatieff issued a statement condemning Israeli Apartheid Week, which prompted Day’s response. Ignatieff’s statement called the event “an attack on the mutual respect that holds our society together” and “a dangerous cocktail of ignorance and intolerance.”
Day, who was elected as rector to represent undegraduate and graduate students, felt Ignatieff had misrepresented Israeli Apartheid Week.
“When Michael Ignatieff published his opinions on Israeli Apartheid Week, I published a letter on Rabble.ca sharing my thoughts on the issue,” Day said.
The three-page letter criticized Ignatieff for “ignorance” of the facts brought out by Israeli Apartheid Week. Day’s letter said it was wrong to condemn the week as anti-Semitic (as a line in Ignatieff’s statement had implied).
“If you were ignorant of these facts, I understand why you made the mistake you did in your statement. Now that you know, please rescind your statement and issue an apology or retraction,” Day said in his letter.
The last paragraph of Day’s letter that was the most problematic.
“I was elected to represent the approximately 20,000 students of Queen’s University,” he wrote. “If I ever used the influence of my office and the power of my public voice, as you have, to insulate from criticism the perpetrator of a mass-slaughter, I would have a very difficult time sleeping at night.”
He then signed the letter with his official title as rector of Queen’s University. Some students felt that Day abused his position to champion a personal cause. By signing the letter with his office and noting that he was a representative of Queen’s University students, Day spoke for a cause with which many students do not agree. As a result, the Queen’s Conservative, Liberal, and Israel on Campus groups circulated a petition calling for impeachment proceedings to begin against Day.
“Nick Day purported to represent all students at Queen’s in his actions, when in fact, his words hurt many and contributed to alienating many national and religious groups on campus,” said Dan Salvatore, a leader of the Queen’s University Conservative Association
Salvatore described Day’s actions as “unethical” and stated that the movement to impeach Day originated from “a strong consensus among Queen’s students and the Kingston community that his actions were unethical.” There isn’t however a consensus about what the duties of a rector shuld be.
“Some Queen’s students claim that a Queen’s Rector and student representative should not be allowed to engage in public political debates, while others have argued that it is the responsibility of a representative to do so,” said Day.
The petition circulated by various student groups aimed to bring Day’s impeachment to the entire student body for a vote. The petition gained well over twice the number of necessary signatures, and was approved by the Alma Mater Society, the Queen’s student government.Today and tomorrow students will vote on whether Day should be impeached. The Alma Mater Society will report the results to the University Council, which will use them to make a final decision.
The Queen’s University administration was unavailable for comment on this story, and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s media relations office told the Tribune that he had no comment on Day’s situation.