Message from the President: Encampment update

The McMaster University logo in white set against a maroon background

It has now been more than 11 days since the encampment began at McMaster. This time has not been easy for anyone involved, and we recognize the need to address the issues raised. Those participating in the encampment have made a number of demands and I believe it is important that the university’s positions are provided to the entire community.

These positions are based on McMaster’s fundamental principles of freedom of expression, academic freedom, the university as a place of multiple beliefs and perspectives, the role of the university in providing shared, safe spaces for the free exchange of ideas in respectful ways and upholding the requirement that the university maintain its policies and the law.

• McMaster will maintain the right of faculty members to pursue their academic and research interests. We will continue to align our research and scholarly activities with federal and provincial directives.

• Students who are pursuing work terms, co-op programs or other experiential learning opportunities will continue to have the right to decide where to pursue these activities in alignment with their program requirements.

• We will continue to align our Policy on Discrimination and Harassment with the Ontario Human Rights Code, and any of its definitions related to anti-Palestinian racism. The university denounces all forms of discrimination and harassment.

• McMaster will continue to be a signatory to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investing, and will uphold these principles, which include human rights as part of the integration of environment, social and governance considerations.

Freedom of Expression and its rights and responsibilities will continue to guide all activities on campus.

Our discussions with students this week and last week have been helpful and have provided an opportunity to better understand their concerns and to share information.

In that spirit of sharing information, we can update our community that:

• The university’s total investment pool is not funded through tuition and includes less than one-tenth of one per cent from companies identified by the movement for divestment.

• Our Scholars-at-Risk Program and Students-at-Risk Bursary will continue to be available to support academics and students from areas of conflict, including people from Palestine.

• The Student Wellness Centre brought in additional help for Palestinian students this year and has more recently added a second psychotherapist to provide more support to students.

We have provided support for more than 30 events hosted by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) over the past academic year in alignment with our commitment to Freedom of Expression for every individual on campus.

Once the encampment ends, there will be more opportunities to discuss other concerns the students have raised. At that time, McMaster will:

• Arrange a meeting with our Chief Financial Officer to share more information about McMaster’s investment strategy.

• Initiate a discussion with the Chief Financial Officer and other university leaders to consider recommendations to increase the transparency of McMaster’s investments.

• Create a new process so groups or individuals with concerns about McMaster’s investment approach have a clear pathway to share their views with the university’s financial leadership.

• Ask the university’s International Strategy Advisory Group to develop a framework for human rights considerations in international agreements. The first meeting to discuss this issue is to occur before the end of May.

We hope this clarity on the university’s positions will allow us to continue to have meaningful discussions.

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