A student-run centre at York University in Toronto has blocked a pro-Israeli academic from speaking at its facility, fearing that it may lead to Concordia University-style protests.
But the university administration said Thursday it is considering whether it can find another place on campus for Daniel Pipes, who has been invited by the Jewish Student Federation at York, to speak at an open event next week.
Mr. Pipes, a Middle East expert and director of the Middle East Forum, is described in his biography as "one of the few analysts who understood the threat of militant Islam." He is the creator of Campus Watch, a controversial Web site that details what he calls pervasive anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments on college campuses across the United States.
The public lecture at York was to be held at the Student Centre's restaurant, Underground, on Tuesday. But a number of student groups met with representatives of the centre this week, expressing concerns about Mr. Pipes speaking on campus.
"Our concern is the racism toward Middle Eastern students," said Ali Hassan, president of the Middle Eastern Student Association at York. "If he is allowed to speak on campus, our concerns will remain."
Although the Student Centre has decided to cancel the event because of student concerns and fears of protests, Cim Nunn, a spokesman for the university, said the administration is in the process of trying to find another venue for Mr. Pipes.
"What we don't want is an event to take place where the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff can't be ensured," Mr. Nunn said. "And that's the reason for trying to find a different venue here."
Mr. Nunn acknowledged that Mr. Pipes will be discussing issues with which not all students will agree, and the university still has to determine whether there is space available on campus to accommodate the academic.
Mr. Pipes, author of 11 books on the Middle East, said the Student Centre's move shows the "aggressiveness and intolerance of the pro-Palestinian . . . and extreme left.
"If you don't subscribe to those points of view, you don't have a legitimate voice," he added.
But the university said it needs to take necessary precautions so that there will not be a repeat of what happened at Concordia in September. Violent clashes between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students forced the cancellation of a speech by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Montreal university.
Ed Morgan, Ontario chair of the Canadian Jewish Congress, hopes that Mr. Pipes's visit will not lead to another Concordia-like protest, even if it is on a smaller scale.
"Frankly, Daniel Pipes is not even a politician. He's just one more academic analyst," Mr. Morgan said. "If students are riled up to protest an academic analyst ... then I would say that it almost nullifies any possibility of academic exchange on these issues."
Zac Kaye, executive director of Jewish Campus Services of Greater Toronto, an umbrella organization for the York student group, sat in on the meetings with York students this week. He said many were uncomfortable with Mr. Pipes visiting the campus.
But Mr. Kaye said universities shouldn't stifle different views. "That's what universities are all about," he said. "One doesn't have to always agree with their opinions. We felt somebody like Daniel Pipes should have the opportunity to speak."