November 20, 2015
Diversity, inclusion, respect, and civility are among the University of Toronto’s fundamental values. Outstanding scholarship, teaching, and learning can thrive only in an environment that embraces the broadest range of people and encourages the free expression of their diverse perspectives. Indeed, these values speak to the very mission of the University. They spark education, discovery, and understanding and so take their place among humanity’s greatest forces for good.
In this context, a reported encounter near College and Spadina involving a Muslim student from U of T, and similar incidents across the region, are extremely disturbing. The incidents come amid growing ethnic and religious tensions in Western society and around the world. And they are completely unacceptable.
Scapegoating or targeting individuals or groups based on their religion, ethnic or cultural heritage, country of origin, skin colour, gender, age, or any other identity is intolerable.
Such actions are reprehensible and antithetical to the fundamental values of our academic community. Instead, our institution reaffirms its commitment to be a safe and welcoming place for the widest breadth of communities – and their perspectives, ideas, and debates.
The principles of free expression and free inquiry are cornerstones of the academy. No university embracing those principles can retreat from them. By their very nature, diversity, inclusion, respect, and civility are not in tension with academic freedoms. On the contrary, they ground such freedoms.
In closing, I am acutely aware that in the face of intolerance and discrimination, no statement from the administration, however forceful, is a substitute for the public and private commitment, kinship, and professionalism demonstrated so abundantly by students, faculty, and staff across our three campuses.
It is a tremendous privilege to serve as President of this University.