Dennis Murphy, executive director of university communications at Concordia, said university president Frederick Lowy has initiated an assessment of campus security, hoping to find a way to allow Barak to speak on campus in a safe environment.
“He has proposed this as the next step for the university,” Murphy said in regard to Lowy. “I’m sure he felt in principle that the university should have a location available.”
Murphy said Lowy acted after speaking to a variety of colleagues and community groups.
“We have always said we will receive Barak,” he noted. “We have offered to have the event on campus, but we have to ensure safety.”
Karen Lazar, B’nai Brith communication manager, said the position of Concordia has not changed.
“They’re still looking into security,” Lazar said. “The same reason they felt they couldn’t host it in the first place still persists.”
Lazar confirmed B’nai Brith has launched a complaint against Concordia to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, citing the decision to not permit Barak to speak on campus as only one of many reasons for the complaint.
“The complaint is based on four years of a poisoning environment in which Jewish students have been harassed,” she said, adding the situation at Concordia is not an isolated one.
“With regard to Western and other universities, we have received complaints from [Jewish] students who report feeling intimidated and harassed in class,” she said.
Eric Johanssen, University Students’ Council VP-campus issues, said he is unaware of any documented cases of anti-Semitism at Western.
“It’s not more of a problem here, frankly, than anywhere else,” he said. “I’d like to see what this is based on and who [B’nai Brith] has been talking to.
“I think anti-Semitism is a reality wherever you go,” he noted.
Mat Abramsky, executive member of Hillel and the Jewish Students’ Union at Western, said, “This action [by B’nai Brith] does not represent us.
“We are committed to working with, and not against, the campus community to continuously improve the campus environment for all students, Jewish or otherwise,” he said.
Murphy said it was evident Concordia Hillel was not primarily motivated by a desire to see Barak speak, based on its decision to revoke its sponsorship for the event once the university proposed the event take place beyond campus.