NYU-AAUP Statement on the Censure of the University of Toronto

The NYU chapter of the American Association of University Professors supports the censure of the University of Toronto by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

On April 22, 2021, CAUT’s council unanimously voted to impose censure on the University of Toronto over its decision to terminate the candidacy of Dr. Valentina Azarova for the Directorship of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the Faculty of Law. Censure is a rarely used sanction of last resort that reflects the fact that there was a serious violation of university governance that catalyzes this case. Dr. Azarova was the preferred candidate for the position, and negotiations were at a late stage when the Dean unilaterally terminated the process after an influential donor communicated to university administrators concerns about Dr. Azarova’s scholarship, and especially her work on human rights violations by the Israeli state against Palestinian people. Members of the search committee and the IHRP Program Advisory Committee resigned in protest. Complaints against the conduct of the donor—a sitting federal judge—were lodged with the Canadian Judicial Council. 

The decision to terminate Dr. Azarova’s offer was a clear violation of academic freedom principles upheld by CAUT, the AAUP, and other national academic bodies. All the evidence suggest that the decision was politically motivated. Sadly, this is only the latest in a series of cases where university administrators have bowed to wealthy donors by penalizing faculty and students for their speech on human rights issues related to Israel and Palestine. In each instance, the will and intent of faculty and students have been overruled in deference to outsiders seeking to influence campus speech on campuses. The CAUT censure reminds us of the importance of resisting efforts to chill free speech such as the Anti-BDS legislation passed in various American and Canadian jurisdictions, or equivalent initiatives on some campuses.

The main consequences of censure are as follows:

  • not to accept appointments at a censured institution;
  • not to accept invitations to speak or participate in academic conferences there;
  • not to accept any distinction or honor that may be conferred by that institution.

More details from CAUT are available here, and further considerations on the implementation of the censure from supportive faculty may be found here.

We stand with CAUT in condemning the actions of the President and administration of the University of Toronto and endorse and support the censure of the University of Toronto until such time as CAUT finds that corrective actions have been taken to justify the removal of the censure.

NYU-AAUP Executive Committee