University of Toronto President Meric Gertler and University of Toronto Scarborough Principal Wisdom Tettey have condemned two motions passed by the University of Toronto at Scarborough (UTSC) student union (SCSU) which eliminate funding for student groups that support Israel.
At its annual general meeting last Wednesday, the student union passed a motion in support of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. A subsection of the original motion passed in 2013 now requires that any kosher food brought to campus must come from an organization that does not support “Israeli apartheid.”
Gertler said in his statement that “The University of Toronto is opposed to all forms of discrimination, and committed to the protection of freedom of speech and academic freedom. The University was alarmed to learn about two motions passed at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Annual General Meeting on November 24. Both motions are inconsistent with the University of Toronto’s core values of freedom of speech and inclusion.”
“The motions are specifically focused on Israel in a way that is troubling to many members of the community. Such motions would be no more acceptable if focused on another country, or if a student organization in which members are enrolled by their registration were to take multiple stands on a wide variety of issues,” added Gertler, who stated that “The University will be following up with the SCSU to address our concerns.”
Tettey, in his statement, said, “In passing these motions, SCSU has not represented the best interests of all students at U of T Scarborough and has set a dangerous precedent for future U of T Scarborough student union decisions. The Union’s actions directly undermine the efforts that U of T Scarborough and the University are collectively making to create a learning and working environment in which all students, staff, faculty, and librarians feel they are safe, welcomed, respected, and able to meet their fullest potential.”
“Students, staff, faculty, and librarians at the University of Toronto are entitled to their own views on all issues. Israeli-Palestinian relations are no exception. However, no member of our community—and no supplier to the University—should be compelled to share a particular viewpoint or perspective on the actions of any nation state. As the President noted, academic freedom is a core principle of the University, and all members of our community have the right to exercise it,” he added.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) responded to the two statements and welcomed them, but also said that “much more needs to be done”.
“FSWC is calling for the administration to address this and numerous other incidents targeting the Jewish community that have created a toxic environment for many Jewish students and faculty at U of T. To that end, FSWC will meet with the administration next week to urge them to adopt and implement the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as a critical part of a broader strategy to address escalating incidents of antisemitism at the university,” it said in a statement.
“The odious motion put forward by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union is a brazen escalation of the long-standing problem of discrimination being faced by Jewish students and faculty members,” said Michael Levitt, President and CEO of FSWC. “We acknowledge the strong statements from President Gertler and Principal Tettey which are an important first step, but much more needs to be done to address the ongoing scourge of antisemitism on campus.”
The University of Toronto has been in the headlines several times in recent years in relation to anti-Israel conduct.
In March of 2019, the Graduate Students’ Union approved a motion to make its Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Committee permanent.
Last year, B’nai Brith Canada condemned CUPE 3902, a labor union at U of T, following a series of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tweets issued by its official Twitter account.
Several months earlier, CUPE 3902 attempted to host Issam al-Yamani, a Palestinian Arab terrorist facing deportation from Canada, as a speaker at a campus event. The event was nixed by U of T following complaints from B’nai Brith and other groups, but was relocated to CUPE 3902’s own offices instead.