York's commitment to open and respectful dialogue

York's commitment to open and respectful dialogue

Dear York Students,

I hope that you are all doing well as you are finishing the 2023-2024 academic year and looking ahead to the summer.

I am reaching out to talk to you about York’s commitment to open and respectful dialogue, and about our collective efforts to create inclusive and welcoming campuses. The pain and anger experienced by members of our community due to what is happening in Gaza and Israel are real, and we affirm the rights of our community members to peaceful free expression in response. We are guided by the following principles:

  • Safety is our top priority: Every member of the York community must be safe on our campuses. Students, faculty members, instructors and staff have the right to fully participate in all facets of university life without harassment, intimidation, threats, disruption or acts of violence.
  • Discrimination will not be tolerated: Targeting any member of the York community based on their race, religion, national origin, or any other identified characteristic is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
  • We respect the right to free speech and the free exchange of ideas: York is committed to the fundamental values of free expression, free inquiry and respect for genuine diversity of thought and opinion. It is the right of all community members to express their views within the law and without fear of intimidation or harassment or the promotion of violence.
  • We are all responsible: Every group and individual member of the York community must uphold these principles. There is a collective and individual responsibility to protect the rights of every member of the York community to a safe environment in which ideas can be freely exchanged.

Over the past number of months, York students demonstrating and counter-demonstrating have worked collaboratively with the Division of Students, Campus Safety, and the Temporary Use of University Space Office to ensure the safety of participants and have also provided marshals and other supports to help prevent escalation. We commend the many students and student leaders who have worked diligently to support peaceful demonstrations. We hope to continue to work with students and other community members to ensure that your rights to free speech are maintained in a safe manner in accordance with University policies.

We recognize that across North America, community members at a number of universities are currently engaged in protests, including encampments.

We want to remind you that York University is private property and any unauthorized use would be a violation of the Trespass to Property Act and University policies -encampments or occupations are not permitted under these regulations.

Our primary concern is that encampments pose a significant health and safety risk to participants and can lead to escalations between different groups, including through the involvement of non-community members. The university may not be adequately able to support or ensure participant safety; hygiene, access to washrooms, and litter are concerns; outdoor cooking or heating are hazardous; and especially after dark the risk of assaults and other harmful or dangerous conduct is heightened.

We will also continue to work with community members to ensure that incidents of anti-Palestinian racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism do not occur. All community members should be able to rely on our campuses being respectful and safe for everyone.

We are calling on all members of our community to treat each other with empathy and compassion as we navigate these issues together.

I wish you all the best as we move into the summer, and as always, please reach out if you have any questions.

If you need support, connect with student services and well-being resources. Graduate students can also visit student services for graduate students and graduate student wellness services.

Best wishes,

Nona Robinson
Vice Provost Students