A Message from the Vice-Provost, Students to Reclaim YorkU members in the Senate Chamber

April 26, 2018

To: Reclaim YorkU members in the Senate Chamber

I am writing to request that you leave the Senate Chamber. We cannot continue with the current situation for many reasons. Safety is clearly a significant reason, but equally important is the principle that the freedom to express divergent opinions does not extend to compromising and disruptive activities. Freedom of expression and goals of inclusion are not compatible with subverting the policies of the University such as disruptions of or interference with University activities, as well as failure to adhere to health and safety standards.

On April 18th, the Fire Inspector from Building and Fire Code Compliance came to speak to you at the Senate Chamber for the second time. His purpose was to inform you of the risks to yourselves and the University with respect to the fire code compliance and safety and to ensure you were familiar with fire emergency procedures in the event of a fire or non-fire emergency.

The University has an obligation to ensure the health and safety of all members of our community and to mitigate the risk of personal harm. We cannot do so with the current situation involving your occupying the Senate Chamber on the 9th Floor of the Ross Building. Safety issues identified include staying overnight in a space not designed for this purpose; concerns about a clear means of egress; restricting access; and issues around flammable material such as mattresses and sleeping bags.

Freedom of expression is a core value of any free society and certainly a defining value for York University. University study encourages debate of controversial issues and diverse perspectives. Debate and dissent must be done through peaceful expression and must be considered within the normative rules, university policy and values that frame our social order.

As you are aware, once you entered the Senate Chamber on March 22, 2018, we did not interfere with this expression, your ability to have visitors come and go, or your ability to hold meetings and events.

Further, your expressed concern regarding the capacity of community members to physically attend Senate meetings has been noted. The Senate meeting of April 12, 2018 was held at Stedman Lecture Hall D and accommodated more than 100 community members. In addition, you raised several concerns which you wanted to address directly to President Lenton. President Lenton will meet with you to listen to your views and concerns and to have meaningful dialogue. In advance of such a meeting, we ask that you vacate the Senate Chamber.

I urge you to comply with this request. Your voices have been heard, many of the concerns you raise are part of our current efforts. Now, effective participation is best accomplished through dialogue and participation in the structures in place that guide and govern the University. The expression of ideas and opinions, and the ability to navigate the divide between diverse opinions, must exist within the imperative to accept a variety of such opinions through a meaningful dialogue and expression of interests of the entire community.

Also, if you would like to meet with me to exchange ideas, I would welcome the opportunity.

I am asking you to vacate the Senate Chamber. If you require assistance in removing items, please let me know. 

Yours truly,

Lucy Fromowitz
Vice-Provost Students