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On April 22, 2021, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) censured the University of Toronto over its decision to terminate the hiring process for the Directorship of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the Faculty of Law in September 2020. Dr. Valentina Azarova was the unanimous choice of the hiring committee, but after a sitting federal judge, who is also a donor and alumnus of the law school intervened, objected to Dr. Azarova’s scholarship that foregrounds the legal rights of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, the Dean did not proceed with Dr. Azarova’s appointment. More detailed information about these unfortunate and unethical events are available here.
The Steering Committee of the Sexuality Studies Association unequivocally supports CAUT’s censure of the University of Toronto and discourages its members from accepting appointments, speaking engagements, or distinctions/honours from the institution until the University of Toronto reverses its decision and repairs the harm caused by this egregious breach of academic freedom. CAUT demands the restoration of the offer of the Directorship of the IHRP to Dr. Azarova as a requirement to end the censure. More information about the censure and how censures work more generally is available here.
As scholars of sexuality and gender diversity we work at the intersections of overlapping oppressions that structure our personal and professional lives. Our research is often done from a place of deep situatedness within our own marginal communities and is rigorously carried out with the intention of ameliorating the systemic harms and exclusions we face by imagining and enacting new, more just worlds. Scholarship about sexuality and gender is particularly subject to special scrutiny both inside and outside the university, including by donors and politicians. Scholars who challenge hetero-supremacy, cis-sexism, misogyny, whore-phobia, ableism, classism, white-supremacy, settler colonialism, and other forms of opression fear negative professional consequences in the form of job loss, limited career advancements, and lack of funding opportunities. The case of Dr. Azarova’s experience is another reminder of the very real stakes of producing scholarship that lays claim to social and economic justice for all.
We call on our members to share this statement, discuss the censure of University of Toronto among their broader professional networks, and to fight for a world where academic freedom applies to all our colleagues working across disciplines and institutions.
The SSA Steering Committee