to the University of Toronto Governing Council
March 23, 2006
A History of Diversity
decades, this University has placed a special emphasis on creating the
diverse academic community possible. We have done so because
scholarship and outstanding teaching can only thrive in an environment
embraces the broadest range of people and encourages the free
their diverse perspectives.
by year, we have succeeded in building a safe place for the widest
communities, of experiences and thus inevitably, of ideas. By some
the University of
Toronto is now more diverse even than
Toronto itself. Continuing to advance that
remains our daily work.
A Current Strain
it is also important for us to take note when part of our community
am concerned that a number of incidents in the past few weeks have made
current environment difficult for members of our Muslim community.
Misinformation about these incidents has only compounded that anxiety.
disappointed that some members of our community have offered commentary
these distressing events that has not been particularly accurate or
order to ensure the accuracy of this discussion, let
me describe the facts as we know them
about four incidents in particular and what the University’s response
March 7, a hijab-wearing
student was followed into a bathroom at Hart House by another woman who
confronted her verbally and shoved a poster onto her chest. The poster
advertised a rally in support of the Danish cartoons that had portrayed
prophet Mohammed in a manner offensive to Muslims. The victim left the
bathroom, threw the poster in the garbage and rejoined her friend in
Room. The assailant followed her out of the bathroom, found her in the
Room, and began to yell anti-Islamic epithets at the student and her
victim reported this incident to the campus police. Campus police sent
officer to Hart House, but didn’t find anyone matching the description
assailant. The police continue to investigate this incident.
March 8, International Women’s Day,
student leaders from SAC were distributing Women’s Day leaflets on the
southeast corner of St. George and Bloor. Three eggs were dropped onto
group from the Woodsworth
College residence under which they were standing.
narrowly missed two Muslim women wearing hijab, who were there as part
police responded immediately, and questioned people at the site.
because no one claimed that they had been hit or specifically targeted,
police determined that they had no grounds to continue their
Woodsworth is investigating to ascertain the identity of those involved
appropriate action will be taken by the College.
Weeks Ago: Fliers
including one of the Danish cartoons
and statements that have caused offense to Muslims started to appear on
variety of locations around U of T and, apparently, around
University. U of T’s Anti Racism Office contacted
asked them to take the fliers down treating them the way that we treat
offensive graffiti. Campus police forwarded the fliers to Toronto
March 14, Toronto Police advised U of T that these fliers did not
hate literature, but also advised that the fliers were a “point of
March 20, Sunday,
an African-Canadian man
attending an Islamic theological
conference that had
rented space on campus was the victim of a
hit-and-run at Huron and Russell Streets, after a verbal confrontation
which the assailant had yelled racial epithets at the victim. The
taken to hospital for examination and observation and then released.
alleged assailant later turned himself into Toronto Police, who have
charges for dangerous driving and assault. The assailant has been
bail – with the condition that he stay away from the U of T campus.
victim was not a member of the U of T community. It is our
the assailant is not a member of the U of T community. This did not
in connection with any U of T programming
on U of T property, and we have seen no evidence to suggest that the
had any connection to the Islamic conference happening nearby.
the University Administration feels a profound responsibility to ensure
environment on our campuses and we responded fully and quickly.
upon learning of the incident, U of T Police sent five special
the conference with offers to escort attendees after the conference, if
desired. U of T’s acting provost went to the conference immediately to
attendees and police, and, the anti-racism officer went to the
speak with attendees and police.
these incidents take place in a setting of growing ethnic and religious
in Western society. That a university such as ours, which pursues
a central tenet, should find itself a venue for the ugliest displays of
tension is perhaps inevitable.
is most certainly regrettable, and it is without question intolerable.
Canadian universities have faced similar tensions in recent years. We,
they, can only respond to racism by confronting it directly,
whenever warranted, protecting the safety of our members, and promoting
diversity with unwavering commitment. This University has long been and
opposed to Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and every conceivable form of
discrimination based on race, religion or faith, or ethnocultural
Combating these myriad forms of racism and discrimination is the daily
work for many members of your administration, and it is a daily
made by countless members of the wider U of T community.
that point, I have to register concern at the way some individuals have
publicized the hit-and-run crime this weekend as linked to the
incidents that clearly involved members of our University community.
struggle against racism is not advanced by commentary that fuels
that unfairly impugns the reputation for inclusivity of our remarkably
University community. In that respect, the Administration decided last
proceed with a statement today, and we have been firm in not allowing
weekend’s unrelated incident to alter our timetable. My considered view is
of public rhetoric is a substitute for the private professionalism and
commitment demonstrated so abundantly by members of the Student Affairs
and our Campus Police in their interactions with victims of
their outreach to members of the affected communities.
Friday, I had the honour to attend Muslim Jumma prayers at Hart House –
they have been held for over forty years. In speaking with members of
community there, I underscored the fact that the University of Toronto
home; that Muslim students, faculty and staff are integral to this
community; that diversity and respect for difference is our advantage,
the strength that they have shown in continuing to educate others about
community in the face of these difficulties has benefited us all.
University has worked with student groups to develop the plans for a
multi-faith centre that will provide an appropriate permanent location
Muslim students, as well as the many other faith communities on our
am pleased that construction on this facility will commence this
am proud of the way that Muslim students on campus have joined forces
other groups, most notably Hillel, to challenge ethno-cultural
actions that promote intolerance. In many ways, these two communities
provided a model of bridge building for all of us to pursue further.
also want to thank a great many people in the Administration, in our
and within our student bodies who devote themselves, daily, to fighting
and building equity.
The University's Values
have asked how the University applies the principle of free expression
Let me say very specifically that the University will not tolerate
appear to rise to the level of a hate crime, or for that matter, any
act. We have worked and will continue to work to protect the victims,
investigate these events quickly and thoroughly, and to forward any
the Toronto Police for their prosecution where evidence exists to
would add that incidents targeting individuals on the basis of their
-- even if they do not rise to the level of an actual crime --
cause us grave concern, because they undermine the basic purpose of
course, the principle of free expression is a cornerstone of free
democratic societies. No university embracing that principle can ban
expressions of opinion. Indeed, as we have noted before, every member
University community should be prepared to confront opinions they find
any action undertaken for the sole purpose of causing distress to other
of the University of
Toronto undermines the basic purpose of this
learning community. Our purpose
is to advance knowledge through teaching and research in an environment
inclusiveness and respect. Intolerance is a destructive distraction
goal. It thus has no moral place at this University, even when
through means that are protected by the principle of free expression.
repeat: There will be offensive expressions that we cannot suppress or
because of our respect for the core value of free speech on our campus
our society. But I want to serve notice that this Administration will
hesitate to communicate its concerns to those who seek not to promote a
dialogue, but to posture as demagogues.
all of these considerations, any action that threatens the physical
well-being of University members or of visitors to our campuses is
intolerable. Every member of the U of T community is responsible for
an environment in which their peers and guests feel safe and welcome.
assure you that this administration will continue to focus on ensuring
safety of all our campuses.
The Path Ahead
me summarize: The University of Toronto will continue to uphold the
of free expression -- even, at times, to a degree that may be
broader society -- because it is the cornerstone of our daily work.
so doing, we expect all members of this community to be mindful of the
line between discourse that is
provocatively reasonable and that which is
unreasonably provocative because it targets individuals on the basis of
identity. Racism and discrimination on the basis of religion or
identity are unacceptable on our three campuses.
To that end, we will also continue to devote major resources to
the culture of inclusiveness and respect for differences that already
characterizes so much of our University. In that effort, I remain
the contributions of countless members of our learning community who,
everyday interactions with each other, uphold the principle that equity
diversity are essential prerequisites for the long-term success of this
David Naylor is President of
the University of Toronto.