Message from the President: On respect and compassion

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Dear members of the UBC community,

This is still very early days for me and I wish there had been more time to get to know everyone before writing this message.

As the war continues to unfold in Israel and Gaza, the violence, tension and uncertainty is understandably putting significant strain on our community. The human suffering is heartbreaking and my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is grieving and hurting, both overseas and here in Canada.

The university is striving to support our students, faculty and staff who are affected by this tragedy. These measures have included, but are not limited to, accommodations, increased security on our campuses, emergency funds, and professional support services. We will continue to offer this essential support – contact information is provided below – and we encourage anyone who is in need to reach out.

As a global community, we may feel many different and difficult emotions about the situation that is unfolding. Now more than ever, we must take great care to remain respectful and compassionate towards each other and to uphold our shared commitment to fostering inclusion, dignity, and human rights at UBC.

While I know that as a community we are deeply committed to these ideals, I have regretfully been made aware of campus incidents that fall very short of these values. These have included forms of disrespect, bullying, harassment, discrimination, and intimidation. Hate and racism of any kind will not be tolerated at UBC. The university takes very seriously its responsibility to look into these reports and to act in accordance with our policies.

It is unacceptable that any student, faculty or staff not feel safe on campus. This runs absolutely contrary to our shared obligation to create learning and working environments where everyone feels a sense of safety, and belonging, and can contribute to their fullest potential. We must collectively summon the better angels of our nature to ensure the campus climate does not deteriorate.

We are by definition a diverse community where a number of divergent and conflicting viewpoints must peacefully co-exist. Central to this mission is the provision and protection of space for respectful debate and compassionate dialogue, so we can advance knowledge, discovery, and solutions to the world’s pressing issues. Without respect, collegiality and compassion for one another, our ability to fulfill this critical societal role is compromised.

Respect and compassion in no way curtail our ability to express views on global matters. In fact, they protect and sustain that right by providing a safe forum for these exchanges and debates. What we must ask of each other is care in the way we frame our thoughts so that they are respectful of other viewpoints, non-threatening, and aimed at finding solutions and ways forward.

Please let us remember we are all human and we all suffer in the face of tragedy, regardless of our specific point of view. Compassion is a universal understanding of the suffering of all beings, not only those with whom we agree.

I call on all of us to do everything in our power to reject fear, division, anger, polarization and hate. It is up to us to define the environment in which we want to live. I recognize this is perhaps the most challenging task of all but our shared future, as a community and as a society, depends on our shared belief that it is possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read this message. I wish everyone a wonderful day.

Benoit-Antoine Bacon
President and Vice-Chancellor

Information about supports for students in Vancouver is available here:

Information about supports for students in the Okanagan is available here:

Information about supports for faculty and staff is available here:

This message was sent to faculty, staff and students in Vancouver and the Okanagan.

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