York University in Toronto will accommodate a pro-Israel academic who is to speak on its campus next week, despite concerns expressed by some students, and fears of protests.
The university said yesterday that Daniel Pipes will speak at one of two possible venues when he visits the campus on Tuesday.
Mr. Pipes is a Middle East expert and director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, which describes itself on its Web site as a think tank that works to define and promote U.S. interests in the Middle East.
This week, the student-run centre at the university prevented Mr. Pipes from speaking at its facility.
He was invited by the Jewish Student Federation.
Mr. Pipes is the creator of Campus Watch, a controversial Web site that details what he calls pervasive anti-U.S. and anti-Israel sentiments on college campuses across the United States.
Cim Nunn, a spokesman at York, said that while Mr. Pipes attracts strong opinions, and students likely would protest against him, the university is a place for free expression.
"We wouldn't move forward with this event if we weren't satisfied that we were going to be able to do so in a way that ensured that everybody participating was going to be able to do so safely," Mr. Nunn said.
The public lecture was to take place at the Student Centre's restaurant, the Underground, but it was cancelled when a number of student groups expressed concerns.
When news spread yesterday that Mr. Pipes's event would be relocated, some students were upset that the administration did not seek their input.
Ahmed Habib, a fourth-year student and a member of the Middle Eastern Student Association at York, said that if protests occur next week, students would be urged to demonstrate peacefully, to prevent the problems that occurred at Concordia University in September.
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to cancel a speech at the Montreal institution after a tumultuous protest by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
"Protesting is not a crime," Mr. Habib said. "As a student body we have a right to express our views, and to make sure the university knows that these decisions cannot be made in the dark."
Bernie Farber, executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress of Ontario, said he does not believe that the problems experienced by Concordia will reoccur at York.
He applauded York's decision to "stand up for free speech," despite strong opposition from some students.
"It would have set a very, very unacceptable precedent to cancel it because of students who didn't like Daniel Pipes or what he had to say," Mr. Farber said.
"Academic freedom is alive and well at York University."