Update: The students have setup a change.org petition, if you support their cause please click here and sign!
Frustrated by the media and administration’s one-sided response to Jordan Peterson’s October 11 free speech rally, a group of concerned University of Toronto students gathered together to draft a response. It’s a brilliantly written letter that outlines the racism, violence, and defamation they were subjected to for daring to publicly speak their views on political correctness.
The students have challenged the university to respond to their mistreatment, demanding that the administration takes a non-partisan approach to political conflicts and take action to once again make the University of Toronto a safe place for people to express their thoughts. Posted below is the full text of their powerful open letter:
An Open Letter to the Administration of the University of Toronto
First of all, we would like to commend and thank you for agreeing to host the series of debates proposed to you by Professor Peterson. We believe that this is a step in the right direction, and are looking forward to witnessing what constitutes an example of a free and reasoned exchange of ideas on campus. We believe that fostering a climate where all topics, no matter how controversial, are up for intellectual exploration is one of the fundamental functions of a post-secondary institution, and, as such, we applaud the University’s decision to host the debates.
Nevertheless, we continue to be disturbed and appalled by the incidents that took place at the Free Speech rally on October 11, 2016, and, most of all, by the University’s response to the aftermath of the event. We came to the rally to express our views in a respectful manner; we were instead silenced by members of the UTSU and the Black Liberation Collective (BLC), then slandered by members of these same groups, and finally left aghast at our administration’s failure to protect students’ fundamental rights and freedoms and their decision to muzzle Professor Peterson.
The University has been quick to condemn online threats of physical violence against members of the transgender community; it has also been quick to condemn the few racists and transphobic slurs that were, unfortunately, voiced by a small minority at the Free Speech rally. These fringe views are in no way representative of the opinion of the majority of free speech protesters; in fact, we fully support the University’s decision to denounce these acts. However, we also believe that choosing to draw attention only to those incidents that were perpetrated against the transgender and the Black community is dangerous and wrong.
Why did the administration not condemn the use of white noise machines, allegedly rented by an executive member of the UTSU? Cassandra Williams and other counter-protesters have clearly broken the Obstruction clause of the University’s Free Speech policy. Although the rally was technically held in a public space, the white noise machine was plugged into a power outlet at Sidney Smith; thus, the University had a responsibility to prohibit and condemn such actions .
Where is the University’s response to co-founder of the BLC and student at the University of Toronto, Yusra Khogali, calling an Ethiopian refugee a “coon” for politely expressing his views on the state of free speech in his home country? This was the most evident act of anti-Black racism at the rally – yet the University and media (including the Varsity) fail to recognize this .
Where is the University’s condemnation of an anti-Peterson protester assaulting a journalist, Lauren Southern, and their response to Theo Williamson, the New College Equity Director, lying about it to police? It should be noted that both of these individuals are having criminal charges currently pressed against them. Furthermore, Williamson is having legal action pressed for a completely different altercation, where they seem to have stolen a pro-free speech attendee’s cell phone, assaulted the attendee with the phone, and then smashed it against the pavement . Why has the University not reprimanded Cassandra Williams who used her body to physically block the attendee from trying to retrieve her phone ?
Why has the University failed to protect student organizers and supporters of the Free Speech rally from slander? Unsurprisingly, it appears that the media narrative surrounding what happened at the rally is based exclusively on the accounts of the counter-protestors, such as Theo Williamson. These are the same individuals who have insinuated that we are no more than a group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It is clear, at this point, that we must take these accounts of events very skeptically considering that an active leader of the anti free-speech movement has no problem lying-even to the police ,,.
Why has the University failed to recognize the very real danger posed to students in support of free speech and Professor Peterson? Wesley Williams (also known as Qaiser Ali), another prominent leader in the anti-free speech movement has been documented proudly and clearly declaring himself to be “the death of the palefaces”. What more is needed to constitute a threat to a given demographic ?
Perhaps the actions of Yusra Khogali could be it. The fact that Khogali has not been censured by the University for her words and actions is perplexing and disturbing, to say the least. In her various media communications, she has claimed that white skin is “sub-humxn”; used racial slurs against individuals respectfully sharing their opinion; and expressed a desire to murder “white ppl and men”. It is difficult to put into words just how alienating and terrifying it is to know that an open racist who advocates for the use of violence is advising the University on pertinent matters, claiming to hold the secrets to “anti-oppression” and being allowed to ruin peaceful demonstrations. What Khogali’s actions amount to is bullying, at best .
Finally, where is the University’s condemnation of the Black Liberation Collective – a racist activist group that openly embraces violence(“We will strive for liberation by any means necessary, including but not limited to: armed self-defense. […] We condone whatever methods Black people adopt to liberate themselves and their kin.”)? We find the fact that the administration has not availed itself of this openly available information baffling and hard to believe. And if the University has been aware of the violent nature of the BLC, then why has the administration not only failed to denounce this organization, but also continues to take anti-oppression training advice from this group ?
There is video footage and written evidence supporting every claim made in this letter. If you choose to ignore this information, you are engaging in wilful ignorance, at the expense of violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of the majority of your student body. If you ignore this letter, you admit to condoning radical activist groups to silence, bully, assault and threaten those who dare to disagree with their views.
In short, we no longer feel that the University of Toronto is a place where students are free to share their ideas without risking being aggressively silenced, insulted, assaulted and slandered. We contend that the University is choosing to pursue political gain at the risk of being slandered by the BLC and the UTSU. It must be acknowledged that as long as militant, racist groups are allowed on campus and, moreover, permitted to advise our University administration – those who wish to espouse opinions not in line with the aforementioned groups are not safe.
We demand justice and equal treatment for all students, regardless of their sex, race,gender identity, religion or political persuasion. As citizens of a democratic society and members of your institution, we deserve the right to free speech and fair treatment. We deserve to have an administration that cares about all students equally and takes a nonpartisan approach when conflicts between various student groups and interests inevitably arise.
The University has failed to protect their students from violence, bullying, racism, sexism and slander. We are speaking up – we need you to listen. What’s happening is fundamentally wrong, and against all values of this institution and of Western, liberal democracy.
One terrific letter! Are things really looking up? Are young people starting to pay attention to what is going on around them? This is a start to really standing up to the real racists and bullies of society! Congrats to all that had a hand in composing this letter!
Time will tell if things are looking up. That said, if the university administration doesn’t take action after this letter, it will only amplify the global attention this story has been getting (my story on Smugllypuff has had readers from over 50 countries).
The dumbing down of a society begins in the universities and colleges. This letter documents how it is being done in Canada. No Canadian should have to be as dumb as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The amazing thing is that she still feels the need to be a student when she obviously knows everything already…
How can one get in touch with the organisers of this rally?
Just spoke with one of them, they suggest that you go to the Facebook page they’ve setup. If you want to contact them privately, email me at [email protected] and I’ll forward it to the right people. :)
Amazingly concise and clear letter of concern! I stand with these students and commend their commitment to free speech and open discussion on University campuses!
Indeed, they’ve done amazing work, let’s hope that the administration takes action!
Wow!!! You hit all the right notes and so eloquantly. Be brave! You are heroes! Everyone is behind you , even the people getting pulled in the anti free-speech direction. There is a terror of having ones character assassinated, and so people are silent and capitulate – but this cowering has gone too far. Thank you!
Factual and provable. It is important to shine a light on the universities’ lack of concern for all viewpoints, and willfully try to suppress the free speech side of the argument. Is the university Paying Attention!? What is going to happen to these educators when the political weather changes? It is important for the whole country to see these videos and the story behind them. My Daddy always told me: It is what you do above the bottom line that keeps you from dropping down to it.
Simply awesome!!! Can’t wait till the debates! Though, to honest, I can’t see how the other side will field anyone that could go tow-to-toe with Dr. Peterson. Fingers crossed, though.
They’ll definitely need a heavyweight to keep up with Dr.Peterson, it will be interesting to watch this for sure!
thank you students of toronto university! only through your action against now what has become, a divisive, racist, sexist movement of ill educated, privileged children. will the academic departments of our universities realise they have dropped the ball and have been supporting and cowering to the demands of bigots. well done, more please.
you know you have a bunch of online communities who have had enough of this.
Words have caused wars. When not used carefully they’re just like weapons and ultimately wreak hate and destruction. This letter is meaningless because it argues for freedom of expression while failing to see the bigger picture. These students should stop wasting our time.
I agree with you that we must use words carefully, but taking away people’s right to use words isn’t a valid solution. Lots of countries have tried this, all have failed miserably- many taking millions of lives along the way. I’ve lived in a couple of those countries and heard the stories of the people who lived through the terror.
So, unless you can give me an example of a society where restricting words was successful, I’m going to have a hard time taking your position seriously.
Canada. Hate speech, for example, is not constitutionally protected under freedom of expression. In my opinion, this has been wildly successful for our country. It has encouraged a certain level of discourse and prevents conversations from being derailed entirely by the loudest, most unreasonable, people at the table. In the United States, this is not the case, and the detrimental effects on public discourse are palpable.
I’m not sure I agree with that. The hate and unreasonableness haven’t disappeared, and we’re still being derailed by the loudest and most extreme.
We saw this at the October 11 protest, Peterson’s supporters blasted white noise over his PA system in an effort to derail him. It was a total shitshow. One counter-protester yelled out at a refugee calling him a “coon”, and two now face criminal charges for assaulting Peterson supporters.
The scariest part is that both mainstream media and UofT administrators took a monumentally unbalanced approach to the aftermath. They completely ignored documented incidents of overt racism and arrests like they never even happened. They instead focused on alleged (and undocumented) claims counter-protesters received online threats.
A big part of the reason the media and UofT acted this way comes as a result of Canada’s friendly “certain level of discourse”. The counter-protesters present themselves as representatives of glbtq/black/first nations/etc” communities as a whole. A depressingly significant slice of the media is so afraid of being accused they deviated from “acceptable” discourse they’re unwilling to ask challenging questions.
I’ve documented several cases. The system is broken.
Regardless, if you actually read the whole letter you will have realized that the students weren’t standing up for hate speech, they actually denounced all instances of it…
Free speech is absolute. All our other rights flow from free speech. Without free speech we have no rights and no liberty. There must be no restrictions placed on free speech. No one has a right not to be offended or to have their “feelings” taken into consideration. Violent racist thugs who try to shut down free speech are criminals who must be resisted.
I could’t agree with you more. He’s passed away now, but the Hungarian man I know who ended up having electrodes connected to his private parts as punishment for having the wrong books in his home would probably agree with us too!
About a year ago I was told to leave an OISE / UT conference centered on Aboriginal issues, grievances and history including mostly current activities of Canadian Aboriginals with in particular Canadian governments. I spoke to a graduate student during a between sessions break (I believe a Ph.D. student though I don’t think she was registered in OISE but in the Geography Department at U of T) interested in land issues and land negotiations. I told her that our courts are set up to willfully ignore human rights as too time consuming including our Supreme Court and if anyone raised this issue especially formally and significantly whether orally or in court accepted briefs it was like putting a gun to your head. I then asked her as to what she expected Canadian legal authorities to do considering several of the speakers and session titles focused on legal redress. She apparently spoke to one of the organizers who then firmly told me to leave as I had made some of the participants ‘uncomfortable.’ Given the gross immaturity of this student (and possibly some others) I gladly left. If any university cannot tolerate diverse, conflicting and “uncomfortable” views/opinions (which in fact I did not give but simply state legal actuality) do not attend such a university. More importantly though it is dismaying to experience this as the students involved do not see this as a learning opportunity (in of all places a department / venue of the University which “trains teachers”!).