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Suspended York U student sues for $850K

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A York University student suspended last spring for his role in an on-campus demonstration is now suing the school’s president and board of governors for $850,000.

Daniel Freeman-Maloy, a 22 year-old political science student, is claiming that York president Lorna Marsden and members of the board abused their authority, defamed him, and denied his academic freedom. In a statement released last week, the school responded that it acted in “good faith” and intends to “vigorously defend the action which has been initiated against the university.”

Freeman-Maloy is an ardent activist who has long protested the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. On March 16, 2004, he headed a demonstration to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza.

Freeman-Maloy says that his group of activists was met by a counterdemonstration of what he called “militant Zionists.” In response, he and other students began using a bullhorn to speak to the crowd and lead several chants. A month and a half later, Freeman-Maloy was banned from the school for three years.

“In late April, with no warning, I got a letter signed by Lorna Marsden saying that if I came on campus following May 1, I would be charged with trespassing,” he said. Marsden cited disruption of campus life and unauthorized use of a bullhorn as the reason for the suspension. No other students were disciplined, and contrary to school policy, Freeman-Maloy had no chance to contend the ruling.

His lawyer, Peter Rosenthal- who is also a professor of mathematics at U of T-said that in suspending his client, the board was acting, at least in part, “out of antipathy for Maloy’s views about Palestinian human rights.”

Freeman-Maloy and Rosenthal speculated on other motives for the suspension. Freeman-Maloy had recently been active in aiding workers at the Metropolitan Hotel to organize themselves against their management. Henry Wu, who owns the hotel, also sits on York’s Board of Governors. Freeman-Maloy said that in expelling him the administration was trying to “assert authority over [his] actions off-campus” and punish him for opposing Wu.

Freeman-Maloy launched a campaign to have his suspension overturned soon after he was told to leave. After a Divisional Court ruling in July awarded him the right to subject the suspension to a judicial hearing, York reversed the suspension. But for Freeman-Maloy this was not enough.

He’s suing Marsden and the board for legal costs, as well as money that he would have been paid had he been allowed to work on campus last summer.

But Rosenthal admits the vast majority of the sum is to punish the York administration. A statement released last week explained his client’s belief that “extensive punitive damages are required to insure that President Marsden does not use her office similarly to punish and/or defame students in the future.” Right now, Freeman-Maloy, who says he is deep in debt, is back attending his fourth year at York.