YUFA follow-up statement on protecting academic freedom in times of crisis

The York University Faculty Association extends deep and sincere condolences to faculty, staff, and students who are impacted, either directly or indirectly, by the ongoing crisis in Israel and Palestine. York University is a diverse intellectual community consisting of many views on a range of numerous pressing political and social justice issues. Students, staff, and faculty alike contribute enormously to matters of local and global significance. The University’s protection of academic freedom, the right to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to raise troubling questions and challenges to established beliefs is even more critical in times of crisis.

It is the role of the University, consistent with and derivative of its mission statements and guiding principles, to remain politically autonomous and to respect in policy and action a diversity of viewpoints. At a minimum, York University must ensure a space for meaningful dialogue and engagement for its faculty, staff and students, without any fear of institutional reprisal. Furthermore, an institution committed to academic freedom must engage with its communities before it seeks to exercise any disciplinary authority against students, staff and faculty.

YUFA is resolute in its support of all members – faculty, staff and students included – who speak up about the current war in Palestine and Israel and who bring their expertise and experience to bear on public conversations. We are, therefore, deeply alarmed, if not disturbed, by the email from the York University administration of Friday, October 20th 2023, which YUFA interprets as an effort to silence such crucial conversations. We are equally concerned that the University administration assumed, on all our behalf and without consultation of any kind, that it is required to take drastic action against elected members of student groups at the University. YUFA vehemently disagrees with the condemnation by the York University administration of York University’s student associations.

The administration failed to uphold its core responsibility to these principles of freedom and expression. While the administration of the University may not agree with the views expressed by the diverse number of groups that form part of the York University community, it is imperative that the current administration create and protect an intellectual environment where viewpoint diversity is upheld, so long as such viewpoints do not violate hate speech laws or are an actual incitement to violence.

We are equally concerned that the administration’s decisions and actions do not reflect collegial norms of engagement and debate but instead are presented as administrative fiat. Such actions put everyone in the university community at risk.