The recent issue raised by the Alma Mater Society proposing that UBC divest from nine companies in Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories is a controversial one for those in favour and those opposed. We have heard positions on both sides of the BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) issue from students, faculty, staff and alumni.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine raises many questions that are not unique to our university. Indeed, universities around the world grapple with them. As a globally influential university with a diverse student body, the UBC community is privileged to observe, discuss and participate in issues of global significance every day.
As a community of learning, it is incumbent on UBC to place paramount value on the free and lawful expression of ideas and viewpoints. Positions on complex geo-political issues that protect human rights are best made by guarding academic freedom and freedom of expression in an environment that supports constructive and respectful debate. But constructive and respectful debate cannot occur when members of one group are made to feel personally attacked for their identity or where tolerance and inclusiveness are not fostered in productive discourse. We work to avoid polarization on the basis of student identity, religion, or political beliefs so that students are safe and free from harassment. Therefore, UBC’s fundamental commitment to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion must be reflected in all that we do and say in pursuit of our academic mission.
For these reasons, the university does not support BDS and, therefore, cannot support the AMS motion to urge UBC and the Board of Governors to divest.
UBC is committed to serve as an inclusive forum for free and respectful debate to advance knowledge and understanding. Through productive discourse and through teaching, learning and research, we will continue to contribute to diplomacy and the ongoing efforts to find peaceful paths forward in the Middle East.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor