The latest episode of the Igor-gate saga
After a recommendation from the McGill administration, the Students’ Society of McGill University Executive Council called for the resignation of Arts Representative Igor Sadikov, who has been engulfed in controversy since he publically tweeted, “punch a zionist [sic] today.” In response, around 35 students gathered in front of James Administration Building on Friday, February 17th to support Sadikov and to protest the administration’s intervention.
Since publishing a controversial tweet urging violence against Zionists on February 6th, Mr. Sadikov has been formally asked by the Arts Undergraduate Society to resign. On the 17th, the SSMU Executive Council echoed this call in a public statement, writing “we believe that Councillor Sadikov’s actions were an incitement of violence and, for that reason alone, we have recommended that he resign from his position as a Director and as an Arts Representative to the Legislative Council.”
The Executive Council’s call for Sadikov to resign follows a Board of Directors vote on February 13th, when directors voted 5-4 against removing Sadikov from his position on the Board. The Board instead voted to censure Sadikov. According to the Board, the censure was meant as “a formal disciplinary action that acknowledges the harm caused as a result of one of Director Sadikov’s Twitter posts.”
Erin Sobat, VP University Affairs, explained his decision to vote against the motion to remove Sadikov. “As a Director,” Sobat elaborated, “I echoed the statements of several other Board members that while the tweet made was problematic in nature, as were some of the responses to it, this did not necessarily constitute a violation of his duties in terms of overseeing the legal, financial, and operational resources and affairs of the society.” Sobat further stated that he “also echoed other directors in saying that they felt it would be too harsh a move that was politically motivated more than motivated by the needs of the corporation.”
Niall Carolan, VP Finance, voted for the removal of Sadikov. Carolan explained that his decision was based on the legal advice, stating, “I voted in favour of this motion based on the opinion we received from our Legal counsel regarding the Society’s potential legal and financial liability.”
Following the Board’s decision, Sadikov released a public statement apologizing for his tweet, stating, “Even though the tweet was published on a personal account, the format I used was unbecoming of my leadership position and the expectations that are associated with it. I deeply regret the harm that was caused as a result.”
Sacha Magder, VP Operations, released a separate statement where he condemned the violent nature of Sadikov’s tweet. Calling Sadikov’s tweet an incitement of violence, Magder wrote, “Regardless of anyone’s personal stance, this act is reprehensible and is simply not defensible.” Magder further expressed disappointment with Sadikov’s behaviour throughout the course of Igor-gate, stating “I regret that Igor has not taken responsibility for his actions, and has allowed his actions to dominate all political discourse on campus and to perpetuate rancorous discussion that have no place in our governance.” Magder then followed up by calling for Sadikov to “do the right thing and to resign from his post.”
While some were focusing on the content of Sadikov’s tweet, others zeroed in on the question of whether or not the administration acted appropriately in their intervention.
SSMU insisted that their call for Sadikov’s resignation was triggered by the Councillor’s incitement of violence, writing, “We believe that Councillor Sadikov’s actions were an incitement of violence, and for that reason alone, we have recommended he resign from his position as a Director and as an Arts Representative to the Legislative Council.”
Though the SSMU executive insisted that this call was a result of Sadikov’s actions, the McGill administration confirmed that the administration stepped in to recommend this course of action to the SSMU. According to the CBC, Principal Suzanne Fortier stated that she, along with other members of the administration met with SSMU executives to share their “strong belief that the SSMU executive should ask for the resignation of its board member, Igor Sadikov, who recently sent a tweet inciting violence against a specific group.” She furthermore noted the abnormality of the situation, “While we normally do not recommend a course of action to the SSMU leadership, this situation is exceptional.”
Seeing this as an alarming interference of the administration over student affairs, roughly 35 students gathered to rally in front of James Administration Building.
Mila Ghorayeb, a U3 joint honours philosophy and political science student participating in the protest, expressed concern about the administration deciding to step in. “This is about the admin overstepping its bounds,” Ghorayeb stated, “putting its own economic interests above student interests.” She furthermore expressed alarm that the administration was “making McGill out to be more of a corporation than an actual educational institution.”
Kyle Shaw, a U3 anthropology and philosophy student supporting the protest, hoped that the demonstration will show the administration how students feel about the administrative intervention against Igor’s continued presence in SSMU. “This is a breach to student democracy,” Shaw asserted. When asked if those present at the protest reflected the majority of student opinion on the issue, Shaw replied, “not necessarily” – before emphasizing that “this is exactly why we need the democratic process to play itself out.”
Ghorayeb also expressed faith in the student body’s ability to use democratic processes to discuss and work through the disagreements and tensions which have become apparent throughout the course of Igor-gate. “I understand the concerns of Jewish people at McGill. I definitely think we should listen to their concerns about anti-Semitism and deal with that as a student body, without bringing in the admin.” Ghorayeb further elaborated, “Of course there’s gonna be people who are gonna say foolish or inappropriate things, but there are also a lot of us willing to engage in dialogue with people who are pro-Israel.”
Though the protesters were focused on the administration’s overreach in student affairs, some bystanders still tied the protest back to the basic problem of violence in Sadikov’s tweet, rather than a reaction to the administration’s actions. Stevan Tempesta Jr., a U2 political science and economics student who stumbled upon the protest on his way to the library, commented that “when the motivation to protest, regardless of cause, is out of solidarity for a person who advocates violent, vigilante ‘justice’ for a political view in a position of student government, you lose both your credibility and sincerity in my book.”