We have all witnessed President Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine with horror, outrage, anguish, and utter disbelief. On behalf of the University of Toronto, I condemn this decision and the violence and aggression it has caused. I strongly support all diplomatic efforts to achieve a swift end to the war, and the return of peace, security and democracy.
In the face of this shocking human suffering, our thoughts turn to the many University of Toronto students, faculty, librarians, staff, alumni and friends who have personal connections to Ukraine and the wider region, and to all members of our community who have been impacted by these recent events – including members of our Russian community who oppose the war and seek a peaceful resolution. I know I join so many across our University in expressing anger, heartbreak, and sadness at this needless suffering.
The University of Toronto community has a special connection to Ukraine. We are privileged to host many Ukrainian students. Our Petro Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine is home to leading scholars and educators, as is our Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and our Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies. As recently as 2019, I was honoured to welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to U of T, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and delegations representing over 30 countries as part of a Ukraine Reform Conference. I was struck then by President Zelensky’s personal warmth and great commitment to Ukraine and its people.
At a time when world events are darkened by violence and division, let us remind ourselves of the unique responsibility of universities: to foster deeper understanding of complex issues, to bring people together to learn from each other through dialogue, and to advance the human condition globally through education, discovery and outreach. I take great pride in the work of our scholars, and particularly so in times like these, when we are all struggling to make sense of the unfolding tragedy. Many have already stepped forward to provide timely and incisive commentary and perspective, and I thank them for fulfilling this critically important role.
Meric S. Gertler, President