TORONTO, October 18, 2023 – University faculty and academic librarians stand against violence and hate, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and racism in all its forms on Ontario campuses. OCUFA and its member organizations also strongly support academic freedom, and the importance of universities as spaces of safety, scholarship, and civil rights.
In the wake of the tragic events of the last few weeks in Israel and Gaza, faculty and academic librarians, students, and members of the campus community have experienced harassment and threats that infringe on their safety and academic freedom. Safety and academic freedom are foundational to a university education, and OCUFA and its member organizations strongly support these tenets of a university experience.
This is why faculty and academic librarians were alarmed to hear Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop speak in the Legislature on October 17 about the events in Israel and Gaza and take the position that the Ontario government will be monitoring statements made by student and faculty groups on campus regarding these events.
This assertion represents a move against academic freedom for Ontario universities, in the name of campus safety. Hate has no place on university campuses, and processes are in place to protect students, faculty, and staff from harassment and violence. Campus safety is paramount at any time, but particularly during any period of international or domestic strife and tension. Universities are also a place for academic freedom, which allows for debate, including that which is contentious.
However, the government is using this position to threaten to impose restrictions on academic freedom, which is unacceptable. For the Minister to single out one perspective and argue that those with that perspective will be monitored and disciplined by the government is antithetical to the academic mission of our universities.
The situation in Gaza and Israel is complex and unfolding rapidly, with lasting effects for our university communities. OCUFA and its members stand with victims of violence and oppression and expresses deep condolences to those who have lost loved ones and are suffering physically and mentally following these tragic events. OCUFA and its members condemn any threats of violence, harassment, and hate against students, faculty, and all campus community members.
OCUFA calls on the Minister to ensure that all students, faculty, and staff on our campuses—regardless of their position on this and any other world conflict—are safe and free to research, teach, and express their beliefs safely. Anything less is harmful to our community and the postsecondary sector.
Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.
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