Update on actions being taken in response to Israel-Palestine tensions on campus
Last week, I wrote to you about incidents of antisemitism, violence and intimidation that occurred on our downtown campus. Since then, we have witnessed an escalation of frightful, hateful acts in our city — including multiple gunshot incidents — targeting the Jewish community. These threatening acts are contributing to a climate of fear, which we can surely all acknowledge is experienced viscerally by our Jewish students, colleagues and friends with whom we stand resolutely against antisemitism. There is no home for antisemitism at Concordia.
Sadly, and despite earnest efforts for Concordia to be better and to feel safer than the world outside our doors, we are not immune to various forms of intolerance, hate and misunderstanding that target or affect different members of our community. This includes, it must also be acknowledged, the presence of anti-Muslim discrimination.
As I’ve said previously, universities are privileged spaces for teaching, learning and research, where the respectful and free exchange of ideas is at the core of our mission. However, to be successful in our mission, at a minimum, all members of our community —whether they are Jewish, Palestinian or otherwise part of the rich mosaic of Concordia’s culture — must feel safe: to express their views, to display their identity, to be heard, and — appalling as it is to even have to write this — to be safe from physical violence.
We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that individuals are held accountable for their actions. Following our investigations into last week’s events, we’ve banned from our campuses two individuals who are not members of the Concordia community. Investigations into other possible violations of our Code of Rights and Responsibilities by individuals both internal and external to the university community are ongoing.
At the same time, we’re taking measures to grow from our recent experiences and endeavour to ease tensions on campus. This week, I’m meeting with the heads of several student groups to hear about their experiences at Concordia and listen to their suggestions for how we go forward. Likewise, I will be consulting with union leaders to hear their ideas for de-escalating tensions and improving campus life. I am also gathering a small group of faculty and staff experts on mediation and conflict resolution to provide advice on appropriate next steps.
Our Equity Office is increasing its workshops on anti-racism. We’re also training volunteer staff and faculty to be “active listeners,” available to meet with individuals in the Concordia community who wish to voice their thoughts and concerns.
These last several weeks have been terrible for the world and shocking to us all. They have caused immense personal grief and anger for many in our community who have friends and relatives in Israel and Gaza, and they have been politically polarizing. While we may seem powerless to control events on the other side of the world, we all have the capacity to control our own behaviour. And now, more than ever, we must. Not out of fear but because we have the strength, as a university community, to realize that whatever our cultural, religious or political differences, the last thing we should be doing is inflicting more hurt on each other.
We are less than three weeks from the end of fall classes. I strongly believe we need a cooling off period to allow us all to focus on academic success. This is the reason why we are all here and why I ask you, our community, to devote our energies to that outcome and to exercise our duty to act responsibly and respectfully in our actions and our words.
There’s no perfect message that I, or anyone else, could deliver on this topic. That said, I’m confident we can agree that a line has been crossed in our city and on our campus, that there’s no place for hatred or violence in our midst, and that we must do our utmost to protect the sanctity of the university as a home for the collegial pursuit of knowledge and understanding.
My heart is with you all, as members of our Concordia community. We must move forward together.
President and Vice-Chancellor
If you are interested in volunteering for the new Active Listener Network, please email email@example.com.