University Presidents Remember September 11, 2001

September 2002

1. Robert Birgeneau, President, University of Toronto

Last September, at our memorial event in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the United States, I urged the University of Toronto community to exhibit tolerance and civility in the face of those terrorist acts by not directing our condemnation towards innocent members of our own community. At the same time, I affirmed the community's need to condemn those acts of terror and those individuals who perpetrated them.

Pressing international issues have a particularly significant impact on the University of Toronto because society looks to us for leadership, analysis and understanding. The University of Toronto is a composite of numerous nationalities, cultures, religions and creeds. As an institution, we are, in microcosm, a mirror of the world itself. However, precisely because we are a centre of higher learning, we must not become a mirror of the kind of intolerance and suspicion that would most often occur during times of unsettling events both here and abroad.

Particularly as we prepare to begin a new academic year, and as the one year anniversary of September 11 approaches, we must reaffirm our civility and be respectful of each member of our community. We must, as a community, set an example for the rest of society by coming together and reasserting our common bonds. In recent months, incidents have occurred at this university that to some appear to call into question these fundamental standards. They stand as highly visible examples of the sometimes tenuous balance between the rights and the responsibilities that flow from another fundamental university principle - that of academic freedom.

As a centre of great expertise and human talent, the University of Toronto has an obligation to focus its resources on the problems that afflict society. We should work to better our world by promoting understanding between peoples and by finding remedies for the most complex problems confronting humanity. This is the leadership that those of us in institutions of higher learning can and must give in times of crisis.

These efforts must not infringe on our fundamental principles of freedom of inquiry and free speech. The University is almost unique in society in guarding these principles that have been won over the centuries in the face of numerous attempts to thwart them. I would contend that there is a far greater risk to our society when these tenets are denied or made subservient to doctrine and intolerance. However, academic inquiry and reporting must also be based on responsible scholarship so that its conclusions, no matter how unpopular they may be, can be supported. To pursue any other course is to endanger the principles of academic freedom by undermining the validity of scholarship and debasing the very purpose of academic research in a free society.

As we begin a new year of teaching, learning and research, in a world forever changed by the events of September 11, 2001, I encourage all members of the University of Toronto community to remember the unique role our institution plays in world understanding. I ask that each of us embrace the challenges and the opportunities that our diverse community affords us in helping to build a world of greater tolerance, understanding and respect. Finally, I remind all of you that the University will not tolerate harassment, in any form, against any members of its community. All the members of our community must be free to express their values, faith and views without fear of reprisal.

University of Toronto Bulletin, September 9, 2002.

2. Paul Davenport, President, University of Western Ontario

One year ago, on September 11, 2001, we at Western were witness to brutal terrorist attacks on the people of the United States. On this first anniversary of that horrific day, we again express our condolences to all those Americans, Canadians, and others around the world who lost loved ones in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

Our University community continues to feel both sadness and revulsion at the events of a year ago, and a deep sense of solidarity with those American families who are mourning the loss of so many loved ones. The professional, personal, and family ties between those of us at Western and our American friends are many and profound.

As was the case one year ago, we are reminded of the importance to our community of free inquiry, openness of thought and expression, and personal respect for all on our campus. These values lie at the heart of a just and civilized community, and shape the University's contribution to our larger society.

Western News, September 12, 2002.