Dear Members of the Queen’s Community,
Since the terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7th, our community has been on heightened alert. The ripple effect of that violent, unprovoked attack against civilians has been to damage people’s sense of security here on campus and in society at large, especially where they have close ties to friends and family in the region. The attack targeted people young and old, women and children, who were not engaged in war but instead simply living their lives. The images of that senseless but intentional violence are devastating, especially now with the escalation of hostility and continuing loss of life. The number of civilians affected by war and the mounting casualties and the need for humanitarian aid is overwhelming.
When I issued a statement about this earlier in the month, I recognized that our campus would not be immune to the impact of the conflict in the Middle East. I anticipated and encouraged the free debate of ideas and political positions that would inevitably arise. However, what I hoped I would not see on our campus and which I now must write to you about is harassment and discrimination because of religion, ideology, race and ethnicity. Campuses across North America are reporting incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia: people are being targeted simply because of how they look and what they may believe, and they are understandably afraid. There is concern that in this regard Queen’s is not immune. We must stand together to prevent and address these issues whenever they occur. Hate has no place on our campus and is incompatible with the commitment to reason and humane understanding which is our cause for being.
Our campus must be a place where all can feel safe, even when challenged in debate and discussion. For this to occur, we must respect and support one another. Our institution’s mission is academic, not directly political, and it is critical that we maintain a climate in which ideas can be explored freely. If we depart from the tenets of academic freedom—including free inquiry, debate, public discourse and free speech—we compromise our mission and effectiveness as an institution. In the exercise of these freedoms there is, of course, a balance to be achieved. Disagreement should not develop into personal attacks. It should never give rise to fear or worse, violence. Queen’s will do everything it can to protect and support our students, faculty and staff, especially those most vulnerable right now – our Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian and Muslim community members. Harassment, discrimination and violence will not be tolerated. Should any of this occur, we will be swift to act and we will use the tools at our disposal to address it.
If your safety on campus is threatened, report it. If you need time away from campus, seek it. If you need support, we will provide it. Community resources can be accessed here. Please use them. The university’s focus must always be on encouraging discourse, discovery and knowledge while supporting and caring for all of its campus community. But right now, perhaps more than ever, this takes concerted effort on all our parts. We must work together, look out for one another and show compassion even in disagreement. As a community, we will learn from each other but only if we listen and respect one another.