Dr. Kevin Hall's Letter:
Dear Andria, Thank you for sharing your concerns in relation to a University of Victoria course “Towards an Understanding of Antisemitism” which is scheduled to be taught by Dr. Shamma Boyarin.
The University of Victoria has a deep commitment to being a diverse and welcoming community. The university’s mission is to educate, create awareness and build a community where diversity and inclusion are fundamental values that we are all proud to uphold.
No forms of racism, discrimination and harassment, including anti-Semitism, are acceptable at the University of Victoria and we take incidents of racism, discrimination and harassment very seriously.
Unfortunately, we also know that discriminatory, racist and anti-Semitic attitudes continue to exist; and this reinforces the importance of education and the responsibility of educational institutions like ours to confront ignorance and actively promote respect, inclusiveness and better understanding. As educators, our goal is to inform students about the world around us and teach them to think critically about varying and often conflicting points of view.
I recognize that Dr. Boyarin’s personal views, as shared publicly are disturbing to you and to some others. I want to assure you that his views are his own and he is not speaking on behalf of the university. He is entitled to express his personal views under the tenets of his constitutional right to freedom of expression, subject to the limitations identified in law. It is not the role of the University to judge or censor its employees’ exercise of freedom of expression in their private lives.
As an academic, Dr. Boyarin has the privilege of academic freedom. This freedom also has some limitations, as noted above. Please be assured that there is no evidence at this time that Dr. Boyarin has or will exceed those limitations in teaching this course. While professors will always hold a personal view, it is part of their role to offer an array of views and to engage students in debate.
Dr. Boyarin is working on finalizing his course outline, which is focused on his area of expertise as a medievalist: a historical survey of key texts and moments in Christian antisemitism from Augustine to Luther up to the 17th century. Dr. Boyarin has discussed the course content with colleagues teaching in the program. The course is intended to provide undergraduate students with an understanding of early historical developments in antisemitism and will be particularly valuable as a foundation for students in the Holocaust studies program.
If the university is made aware that Dr. Boyarin has violated the limits of freedom of expression or academic freedom, we will re-evaluate the situation and take the appropriate action under our policies.
I wish to reiterate that the University of Victoria, while supporting freedom of expression and academic freedom, does not in any way condone hate speech or violence. We hope that through education and the fostering of deeper understanding, our students will find ways to bridge divides that exist between people around the world.
Thank you Dr. Hall for your thorough response.
I understand the importance of freedom of expression and will look forward to hearing that Dr. Boyarin also respects it and does not hold political sway over his students with regard to how he informs them about antisemitism past and present.
It is imperative that people understand that today’s antisemitism is the manifestation of lies and hatred towards Israel and it is endangering Jews globally. This is not about the right to freedom of expression in one’s personal life because the personal lives of Jews are at stake, and doesn’t that also matter?
Hatred breeds actions and people who spread it must be held accountable. Israelis have established themselves and their country as setting a very high moral standard, but those who would destroy her deny the facts, spread lies and hurt Jew and non-Jew alike. In the past one did of course judge the value of an educator by how he or she conducted themselves in their personal life, not just in their professional life. I am quite certain that if a faculty member posted racist comments, you would be quick to sanction that person and would not wish to subject students to a person with such bias, nor trust they would not exhibit hostile feelings towards racialised students in their class.
Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation