In defence of Academic Freedom at York University
October 27, 2023
WGSJ stands in solidarity with our colleagues at York University affiliated with the The School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Council and the Graduate Program in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies Executive
The School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Council and the Graduate Program in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies Executive are resolute in our support of all members – faculty and students included – who speak up about the current war in Palestine/Israel and who bring their expertise and experience to bear on public conversations. We are, therefore, deeply alarmed by the email from the York University administration of Friday, October 20, which we interpret as an effort to silence such crucial conversations. We are equally concerned that the University administration assumed, on all of 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.
York University is a diverse intellectual community constituted by many views on a range of social and political issues and both students and faculty have a great deal to offer on matters of such significance. The University’s protection of academic freedom, the right to freedom of speech, and the right to raise troubling questions and challenges to established beliefs is even more important in times of crisis.
It is the role of the University to remain politically autonomous and to respect a diversity of viewpoints. At a minimum, York University must ensure a space for meaningful dialogue and engagement for its faculty and students without fear of reprisal. Furthermore, an institution committed to academic freedom must gather evidence and engage with its communities before it exercises disciplinary authority. It is inappropriate for the administrators of the University to speak for the institution without such deliberative evidence gathering. In failing to meet this bar, we are concerned that our administrators have put York University into disrepute. We wish to make it clear that this cannot be done in our names. We call on the University to meaningfully engage with students and faculty and to uphold academic freedom and not acts of silencing or disciplining.