Support Academic Freedom & Queen's University Rector Nick Day sign now

We, the undersigned, wish to state our deep concern over the recent attacks on the principles of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression that have recently occurred at Queens University.

The unequivocal protection of these principles is crucial to the health and vitality of Queens Universitys stated commitment to develop leaders and citizens for a global society.

BACKGROUND

On March 9, 2011, the Queens University Rector Nick Day issued a Response Letter to Michael Ignatieff on the Liberal Party leaders Statement on Israeli Apartheid Week. The letter expressed the Rectors position regarding Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), outlining the rationale for its legitimate inclusion on Canadian university campuses as a matter of freedom of speech.

Only a day after the publication of the Rectors letter, Principal Daniel Woolfe issued a public statement expressing his views, declaring that it was inappropriate for the Rector to voice his opinions regarding Ignatieffs comments. Principal Woolfe stated he was contacted by students, alumni, and others, who believe the Rector should no longer have the privilege of holding this office. In his public statement, the Principal neglected to reference the messages from current students, alumni, faculty members, and others who had contacted him in support of the Rector and his right to speak publicly on such issues in his capacity as Rector.

Partisan student organizations, including the Campus Conservatives, Queens Liberal Association, and Israel on Campus, circulated a petition seeking an AMS motion to poll the Queens undergraduate student body on whether to recommend the Rectors dismissal by the University Council. This petition was presented to the AMS Assembly only one day after the publication of the Rectors letter to Michael Ignatieff.

After receiving defamatory and violent personal attacks, including a death threat, through email, Facebook, and Twitter, the Rector decided not to attend the AMS Assembly. The Queens Journal reported that he felt uncomfortable and unsafe. This environment of intimidation -- which Principal Woolfe has failed to address -- has denied the Rector an opportunity to respond to the controversy prior to or during the AMS Assembly. Following a secret ballot, AMS Assembly voted to allow the question to proceed to a referendum set for March 22-23.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM & FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

We believe that the Queens University community must demonstrate its unequivocal support to upholding a campus environment of unfettered academic inquiry and discussion. Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) provides a forum for the Queens University community to engage with vital issues of concern to human rights and Canadian foreign policy.

The Rectors response to Liberal Party leader, Michael Ignatieff, addressed common and often dangerous misconceptions with Israel Apartheid Week, an annual week-long event that has been held on Canadian campuses since 2005.

IAW has been held at Queens University since 2008 and is well attended by faculty, staff, students, and local community members. IAW makes an intellectual contribution to public understanding of Canadian and Israeli foreign policy, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the situation of the Occupied Territories and Palestinian peoples. Further, Israeli Apartheid is the subject of an internationally-recognized academic and political debate, one that is actively engaged with here at Queens.

There is no doubt that IAW is a controversial event, particularly with respect to the use of the term apartheid. As a leader in higher education and an institution dedicated to global citizenship, Queens University must not retreat from its responsibility to engage with controversial issues; rather, it is the Universitys role to create and maintain space for civil discussion, dialogue, and dissent.

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE RECTOR

In publicly addressing the protection of IAW as a matter of Academic Freedom, and Freedom of Expression, the Rector acted in accordance with the duties and responsibilities of the office which requires the Rector to promote scholarly dialogue amongst students. The countless debates about this and other issues sparked by the Rectors public statements are certainly a testament to the fulfillment of this important mandate.

To suggest that all actions undertaken by the Rector must necessarily represent a consensus of the Queens University student body is both impossible and renders meaningless the position of the Rector as an elected representative of students to the Board of Trustees and administration. Any public action or statements made by the Rector, especially those directly relating to matters of academic freedom and discourse, will no doubt may be seen as contentious by some members of the Queens University community. It would be a frightening compromise of democratic principles if the Rector were to be restricted from acting publicly on matters relevant to student life and academic inquiry, while being expected to espouse institutionally-sanctioned lines in both her or his politics and actions.

We, the undersigned, wish to state the following:

1. We unequivocally support the principles of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression in all circumstances. These principles are critical to the maintenance and vitality of an open and democratic community and must not be constrained in any way by interference from outside powers.

2. Differences of opinion and the motives of partisan political organizations regarding controversial issues are not justifiable grounds for the removal of the Rector from office by the University Council.

3. The position of Rector is accountable to the entire Queens University student body and not any particular student government or constituency.

4. We urge the Queens University student body to affirm its commitment to principles of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression by voting no on the referendum regarding the recommendation of the removal of the Rector from his position.

5. We condemn the use of hate speech and violent personal attacks in all cases and call on Principal Daniel Woolfe to make a clear public statement condemning the use of hate speech and physical intimidation, including those made against the Rector.

Please send your personal statements of support for the unequivocal protection of principles of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech at Queens University to:
[email protected]
and endorse this open letter here:
http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/academicfreedom

SIGNATURES

1. Karl Hardy, Ph.D. Student, Graduate Programme in Cultural Studies, Queens University
2. Margaret Little, Full Professor, Gender Studies/ Political Studies, Queen's University
3. Dana Olwan, Assistant Professor, Department of Gender Studies, Queens University
4. Andrew Stevens, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, Queens University
5. Meaghan Frauts, Ph.D. Student, Programme in Cultural Studies, Queens University
6. Lauren McNicol, Queen's Alumna (BPHE/BA '08), MA Candidate, School of Kinesiology & Health Studies
7. Kyla Zanardi, M.A. Candidate, School of Kinesiology & Health Studies, Queens University
8. Jackie Day, JD Candidate, Faculty of Law, Queens University
9. Sylvia Bawa, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, Queens University
10. Heather Cyr, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, Queens University
11. Usman Mushtaq, MSc, Department of Civil Engineering, Queens University
12. Daniel Moore, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, Queens University
13. Karen Dubinsky, Professor, Global Development Studies/History, Queens University
14. Jessie Barr, Ph.D. Student, Programme in Cultural Studies, Queens University
15. Margaret Pappano, Associate Professor, Department of English, Queens University
16. Douglas Nesbitt, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Queen's University
17. Suhail Panjwani, B.ScH, B.Ed, Queen's University Alumnus

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