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In response to the looming academic boycott of Israel by the UK's University and College Union (UCU), Canada's university presidents are speaking out. The presidents of McGill, York University, the University of Montreal, Concordia University and the University of British Columbia are all taking a stand against the boycott.
The presidents said they viewed the boycott as a threat not only to the university system, but also to the world at large.
A statement issued by Stephen Toope, president of the University of British Columbia, said, "The attempt by one group of scholars to stifle the views of another is an affront to modern society, and must be condemned wherever it arises. The world desperately needs more international trade in ideas; we cannot afford less."
The president of McGill University, Heather Monroe-Blum; York University, Lorna Marsden; the University of Montreal, Luc Vinet; and Concordia University, Claude Lajeunesse said they believed academia in today's age was a place where university counterparts should be turning to each other for tolerance and open communication.
Commenting on the possible effectiveness of solving the Middle East conflict by imposing the boycott, Vinet said, "Such a boycott, which proposes the total break in dialogue between intellectuals/academics, represents, essentially, the negation of the most fundamental values of universities which are the freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas... The resolution of the conflict can come only from the continuation of dialogue and not the shutting down of dialogue as is suggested by the University and College Union."
In her statement against the boycott, Monroe-Blum said, "If you choose to isolate Israeli universities, you should add McGill to your boycott list. We will stand steadfast against those who seek to undermine academic freedom."