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Conversations and work underway in response to the crisis in the Middle East


Dear students and others,

I am writing as we continue to experience the significant impact that the crisis in the  Middle East is having on the wellbeing of people in our community, particularly those with ties to Israel, Gaza, and other Palestinian territories. There are people at the FIFSW who have lost loved ones and we recognize their grief and pain. Everyone I have spoken to is distressed by the loss of lives, and the violence and suffering that continues in the region. I am grateful to the many people who have shared their perspectives and concerns about how this is having an impact in the Faculty.

It is important that I reiterate that this Faculty is no place for antisemitism, islamophobia, or any forms of violence, hate and discrimination. I have heard there are students in this faculty who do not feel safe self-identifying as Jewish, Palestinian, or Muslim. I am told that the discourses fomenting islamophobia and antisemitism in our city and country may also be creating conditions for microaggressions and more direct aggression here. This is not the kind of community that we want or tolerate at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. There should be no hesitation to bring concerns about this to the attention of anyone on the leadership team for support and to discuss how it will be addressed. (Please find the names and contact information of leaders and staff in the document listing student supports, attached. Note: for the online version of this letter, we have shared this information below.)

All of us need to consider the impact of their words and actions on others. With this crisis and others, we are often discussing issues that are attached to deep histories and identities that are important to the people around us. We need to take extra care with our interactions with each other, mindful of communicating with respect and sensitivity. In the social work value of respect for the inherent dignity and worth of persons, there is a commitment to conducting ourselves with awareness that our words and actions can harm, and can make people feel like they are not safe, even if that is not the intent.

Our highest need at the moment is to break silences and foster dialogue on how this and other crises are affecting us, our relationships with each other, and our understandings of the role of social work in such deeply troubling times. Faculty members and staff at the FIFSW have been meeting together, and with your student associations, to explore how we can increase our capacity for crucial conversations and constructive dialogue, where different points of view can be respectfully expressed, and where students have the opportunity to build supportive communities. We will be communicating with you to discuss options, ideas, and supports to help strengthen dialogue within the Faculty.

In addition, this University and this Faculty support your rights to speak out, to apply your scholarship to the issues that we face now, and to participate in social action and advocacy. In engaging in any of these activities, we also have an expectation these rights will be used responsibly and respectfully.

Many of you will have received an email from the Practicum Office outlining supports and resources available to you at the University and I have attached that information here as well. I want to emphasize that your learning, safety, and wellbeing are our top priority at this Faculty. We are committed to moving forward as a community and strengthening our efforts and abilities to provide safe spaces for dialogue, reflection, care, and action. We look forward to following up with you to outline next steps.


Charmaine C. Williams, PhD (she/elle)Dean & Professor
Sandra Rotman Chair in Social Work
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work

Supporting Student and Community Wellness

University of Toronto

University of Toronto, Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work

University of Toronto, Muslim Student Association

University of Toronto, Hillel

University of Toronto Academic Freedom, Equity, and Complaints Processes