On April 22, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) imposed censure on the University of Toronto over its decision to terminate the candidacy of Dr. Valentina Azarova for the Directorship of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the Faculty of Law. Dr. Azarova was the preferred candidate of the selection committee, but negotiations were terminated after a prominent donor objected to her scholarship on Israeli conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories. In making its decision, CAUT concluded that the Law faculty’s decision to cancel the search was “politically motivated and as such constitutes a serious breach of widely recognized principles of academic freedom.” You can learn more about the censure here.
The Bonham Centre supports the censure and urges the University administration to resolve the situation and to act to maintain and uphold the standards of academic integrity that ensure researchers and scholars can conduct their work freely, including those researchers and scholars that hold administrative positions. The censure, among other things, encourages speakers not to accept invitations to speak at the university, and for units such as our own not to host academic and/or public events at the university until the censure has been resolved. Accordingly, we have already cancelled several events, both previously planned and upcoming.
As our students, staff, faculty, and community members know, we host all our events with the intention of remaking the university, which, for us, means working to create queer collectivities of resistance and care. One of the ways we do so is by promoting critical dialogues about how racism, settler colonialism, anti-indigeneity, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and other forms of structural oppression and inequality function and affect us all. Thus, while we will continue to cancel certain events, we will move forward with other events and projects that we feel are crucial to creating intellectual and creative communities in which to imagine and enact social, political, and institutional change. We are, therefore, moving forward with the establishment of the Queer and Trans Research Lab (QTRL) whose goal is to foster and support scholars, artists, and community leaders whose work brings innovative approaches to social and political problems affecting LGBTQ2S+ and BIPOC lives and communities. This necessarily involves new hires, and we are in the process of filling positions for a Research Associate, Artist-in-Residence, Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty Fellows, and a Community Leadership Residency. We are applying an equity lens to all these hires and hope the lab will contribute to the critical work necessary to build the university we want. Any events we decide to host will be relocated off campus, potentially in partnership with other community organizations or academic institutions. We will explicitly publicize why the events are being relocated, and we will use them to address the censure and give voice to those speakers whose work seeks to challenge and transform the university as we know it. As the upcoming year unfolds, we will continue to re-assess these decisions on how best to move forward.