No tolerance for intolerance

“York University has no tolerance for intolerance against any group and takes any complaints made with the utmost seriousness. But those involved in these incidents must come forward with a formal complaint. Those who share our concern for the values of free speech and tolerance must participate in helping us defend them,” writes Richard Fisher, York University’s chief communications officer, in a letter to The Globe and Mail March 12 in response to Margaret Wente’s column the day before about intolerance on university campuses.

Fisher’s letter in full is as follows:

The defence of tolerance carries responsibilities

While Margaret Wente’s column ‘Counterpoint’ of March 11 is polemical in nature, it does contain some unverified assertions that need to be challenged in the interest of painting a complete picture.

First, security arrangements were in place to handle the March 5 protest at York University – those organizing the protest were warned in advance both verbally and in writing that the entrances to the University must not be blocked as the York community has a right to access its own University. As this prior, repeated warning was not heeded, the entrances to the university were cleared by the police at the instigation of York University security.

In the subsequent incident you described involving Yaakov Roth, again the police were called by York University security. Our own security people do not have powers to detain or arrest and must call on the police to do this.

Police have interviewed witnesses and an investigation is ongoing. Our own student affairs administrators have invited those involved in this incident if they wish to make a formal complaint to the University – none have chosen to do so.

With regard to the incident involving Ms Levin, she has already separately acknowledged that the University security was already there when she arrived on the scene – so Margaret Wente’s assertion that ‘no-one showed up’ is just plain wrong. The University made this clear to Margaret Wente the day before her article was printed.

York University has no tolerance for intolerance against any group and takes any complaints made with the utmost seriousness. But those involved in these incidents must come forward to the University and detail their allegations in a formal complaint. The University is quite willing to shoulder its responsibilities for ensuring free speech and tolerance as was shown during the Daniel Pipes speaker event. Those who share our concern for these values must participate in helping us defend them.

Finally, York is Canada’s third largest university with a community of some 50,000 people – in fact on any given day 2.5% of the GTA population is on the York campus. The maximum estimate for the protestors on March 5 was placed at 200 – or 0.4% of the University’s population.

To view Wente’s March 11 column, visit and click on Margaret Wente’s name under the heading “National” on the right side of the page.

President Marsden one of Canada’s 50 most influential women

The National Post included Lorna R. Marsden, president and vice-chancellor of York University, on its Power 50 list of Canada’s 50 most influential women in a special International Women’s Day report March 8. The list also includes Isabel Bassett, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Clarkson, Jane Jacobs, Anne Golden, Anne McLellan, Hazel McCallion, Shania Twain, Heather Reisman and Hilary Weston. The Post describes Marsden as a member of the University’s Board of Governors and its committees and the University Senate. She is the author of several books and articles in the field of economic sociology. Other posts outside academia include a seat as a Liberal senator.

Next Osgoode dean is expert on charter

With competition for law students expected to intensify, the new dean of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School says fundraising and attracting fresh blood to his teaching staff are top priorities, but the prospect of higher tuition fees driving law graduates away from serving the poor is “a real concern,” reports the Toronto Star March 12. Patrick Monahan, an expert on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has been appointed the 14th dean of the law school, replacing constitutional law expert Peter Hogg, who plans to take a leave of absence for the fifth and final year of his term. Monahan’s appointment is effective July 1. Monahan takes over at a time when a decision by Osgoode’s rival, the University of Toronto law school, to raise tuition fees has triggered a domino effect across the country, pressuring other law schools to consider raising fees.

Paul Martin has no conflict of interest – yet

Former finance minister Paul Martin said yesterday he secured the endorsement of some of Canada’s top ethics experts for his plan to sell his shares in Canada Steamship Lines to his sons, reports the National Post March 12. But David Shugarman, director of York’s Centre for Practical Ethics and co-author of a book on ethics and integrity in Canadian politics, said Martin’s decision will simply fuel future conflict-of-interest allegations. “Transferring that to one’s sons is the equivalent of transferring it to one’s wife,” Shugarman said. “To the extent that some people might think there’s a potential or apparent conflict of interest, it’s not going to go away with it being in his sons’ hands.”

Universities scrambling for faculty

Sheila Embleton, York University vice-president academic, says she won a bidding war over a Vancouver competitor to recruit a faculty member last spring based on house prices, reports the Toronto Star March 12 in a story about looming faculty retirements and the race to attract new talent. She says York’s relatively large size means no matter how specialized a professor’s field, they’ll likely find a colleague. Embleton said York, like Queen’s University, competes for American professors. She uses software that allows her to plug in the name of any city in Canada or the US to compare salaries, taxes and lifestyle costs.

Dog advocates take on anti-dog rule

A group of dog lovers, lawyers, law professors and students – from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School among others – is tackling in court the National Capital Commission’s dog-walking restrictions on recreational and park land on grounds they violate anti-discrimination and other provisions of the Constitution, reports The Ottawa Citizen March 12.