Palestinian students claim Concordia dean of students waved middle finger at them

The university denies the altercation between Andrew Woodall and the students

Photo Andraé Lerone Lewis

On Oct. 12 around 6 p.m., Bara Abuhamed and his friend Yusuf, who wished to be given a pseudonym for his safety, were driving on Mackay Street while waving the Palestinian flag through the sunroof. 

As the car passed by the Hall building on the Sir George Williams Campus, the students noticed a familiar figure at the nearby Bixi station. “We were parking the car when we saw an old man giving us the middle finger,” Yusuf said.

“Obviously, we were shaken,”  Abuhamed said. “Why was he flipping us off?” 

As the man loaned out a bicycle from the station, Abuhamed recognized the man to be Concordia Dean of Students Andrew Woodall. 

“When I recognized him, I said ‘you’re the Dean of Students,’ and he said ‘yeah’ and drove off,” he said. “That’s when I stopped the car and told him that I’m a student. That’s when he stops, turns around and comes to apologize.”

In a video of the apology sent to The Link, Abuhamed confronted Woodall, calling him out for the disrespectful action. He also told the Dean he was being a hypocrite.

Abuhamed’s accusation of hypocrisy comes from his previous work with Woodall. In 2017, a letter threatening to set off a bomb in two of Concordia’s downtown buildings was sent to the Muslim Student Association (MSA). Abuhamed, who was the association’s VP at the time, worked with Woodall to ensure students were safe. Now, six years later, Woodall is allegedly giving the finger to the same person with whom he worked alongside. 

Woodall apologized again and blamed the pressure on a “ton of pressure going on.”

Abuhamed responds “on us too,” telling the Dean that the Palestinian Concordia students community has gotten their private information leaked online–or doxxed–by Zionist extremists.

Woodall repeated his apology once more as Abuhamed told him that if a similar interaction transpired again, he would file a formal complaint. 

“You do what you need to do,” Woodall said. 

The Link contacted Concordia’s spokesperson Vannina Maestracci for comment on the situation, and she denied that Woodall made the gesture. According to Maestracci, “He [Dean Woodall] did give a look to the student,” given the statement that was sent on Wednesday about ‘high-charged moments such as the one we are in right now.’” 

Upon hearing the spokesperson's official response, Abuhamed wasn’t happy about how the university was dealing with the incident. 

“If she’s going to accuse students of a lie, she’s either saying that my eyes don’t work or she wants to deny a situation that she knows Andrew is guilty of,” he said. “It’s clear as day what a middle finger looks like.”

Abuhamed also believes that if he and Yusuf had not disclosed that they were students to Woodall, he would not have come back to apologize. 

Anti-Palestinian racism has been on the rise across North America in the past week. Two days prior to Abuhamed’s encounter with Woodall, a Tunisian woman got verbally harassed by a Montreal author, who wished upon the victim to get sexually harassed for carrying a Palestinian flag. On Oct. 14, CNN reported on a six-year-old Muslim child who was stabbed 26 times in Illinois by his family’s landlord and passed away the same day. His mother was also stabbed more than a dozen times.

In the wake of such hatred, demonstrators have started to gather not just in support of Gaza and Palestine, but the wider Arab community.