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Indigenous Education Network
 

May 6, 2021

Indigenous Education Network Response to CAUT Censure of University of Toronto

On April 22, 2021, CAUT Council imposed a censure against the University of Toronto over concerns regarding academic freedom stemming from the scandal surrounding the hiring of Dr. Valentina Azarova in the Faculty of Law. It is alleged that her candidacy was terminated due to aspects of her work which address Palestinian human rights. Censure is a sanction which the Indigenous Education Network takes seriously as a crucial mechanism to hold institutions accountable. Censure has been rarely imposed in Canadian universities and its last use was for governance violations at First Nation University in 2008. During a censure, academic staff are asked to not accept appointments or speaking engagements at the institution until satisfactory changes are made. Acknowledging this censure, the Indigenous Education Network extends our solidarity with Canadian university teachers, and Dr. Valentina Azarova. As of May 5, 2021, the Indigenous Education Network is announcing that in response to the censure:

1. We are cancelling all invitations for the Indigenous Education Network Lecture Series, which engages thousands of people in Indigenous education at the University of Toronto and beyond. We will also be cancelling all external invitations for the Conversation Series with Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous Students. In consideration of the impact on students, we will host internal IEN community conversations centered around anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and anti-imperial solidarity.

2. We are still in conversation and reflecting with our external community partners about applying an equity lens to applications of the censure. The implications of a censure pose material precarity to some Black, Indigenous and Black-Indigenous community partners. To be clear, it is not the censure itself that poses the greatest risk, but it is an institution that refuses to take responsibility for its own actions. The full extent of our programming, and the effects the censure includes financial impacts for community organizations, Indigenous, Black, and Black-Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, visiting traditional teachers, and community members.We commit to ongoing material support of these partners while they may choose to not participate due to censure. We honour their decision making related to participation in our programming and will provide each one of them with ongoing information related to the censure.

3. Beyond the scope of our workload requirements, our leadership team will also be declining what is typically offered off the sides of their desk, that is, speaking engagements and informal consultations within the University of Toronto. We will work in close communications with our various labour representatives and associations to ensure this does not affect workload requirements.

4. Our leadership team will commit to professional development and creating ongoing learning opportunities for our network in the areas of academic labor organizing and mechanisms to support human rights and Indigenous sovereignty.

The IEN offers to make ourselves available for conversations with CAUT around intersections implications censure for Indigenous, Black, and Black-Indigenous students and community members. We will encourage all academic colleagues to enact the terms of censure within their respective contexts. We hope that the University of Toronto will respond in good faith, be accountable, and move towards substantive changes. Our internationalist commitment to self-determination implicates us in struggles for justice for Palestinian self-determination and academic freedom, in the university and beyond.

Signed,

 

Prof. Jeffrey Ansloos, IEN Faculty Chair

Prof. rosalind hampton, IEN Faculty Chair

Kayla Webber, IEN Student Co-Chair

Lindsay DuPré, IEN Leadership Team

Alexis Daybutch, IEN Leadership Team

Prof. Jennifer Brant, IEN Leadership Team

Prof. Fikile Nxumalo, IEN Leadership Team