29 May 2018
Lindsay Gordon, Chancellor, UBC
Santa J, Ono, President and vice-Chancellor, UBC
Dear Mr Gordon and Dr Ono:
“Pursuing excellence in research, learning and engagement to foster global citizenship and advance a sustainable and just society across British Columbia, Canada and the world.” – UBC’s purpose per Shaping UBC’s Next Century: Strategic Plan, 2018-2028
A UBC alumna, Loujain Al-Hathloul (Arts, 2014), has been detained without clear charges and without ability to contact her family in Saudi Arabia. Ms Al-Hathloul is a well-known human rights activist in Saudi Arabia. The nature and timing of her detention strongly suggest that it is part of a crackdown on human rights in Saudi Arabia.
We, the undersigned, are deeply troubled by the following official response to a request that UBC comment on Ms Al-Hathloul’s detention:
“A spokesperson for UBC declined to comment on the case, saying the university has over 300,000 alumni and that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to comment on actions unrelated to their time at UBC.”
[Quoted from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/incredibly-fierce-ubc-graduate-among-activists-detained-in-saudi-arabia-1.4681151]
As a degree-holder from UBC, Ms Al-Hathloul is a life-long member of UBC Convocation. In this sense her time in the UBC academic community has not ended. We as faculty members at UBC (and thus as members of Convocation also) expect and demand that UBC show more concern for the welfare of all members of the UBC community—and certainly those whose human rights are actively being violated.
Moreover, we do not believe and would be entirely chagrined to discover that Ms Al-Hathloul’s human rights work is “unrelated to [her] time” as a UBC student. UBC endorses human rights in many of policies and statements. We expect that these values will be instilled in all of the members of our community. When alumni lead in the effort to advance human rights around the world, we must actively support them. Otherwise we cannot fulfil what our new strategic plan claims to be our university purpose—the advancement of global citizenship and justice around the world.
We, the undersigned, call upon the President, the Chancellor, and the Board of Governors to fulfil their obligations to Ms Al-Hathloul: to actively and publically demand that she be treated justly in Saudi Arabia and to work to assure that she is so treated.
Dr Ono is quoted in Shaping UBC’s Next Century as saying “This is our time to inspire.” In this matter UBC has been anything but inspiring, anything but just.
- Alan Richardson, Professor, Philosophy
- Nassif Ghoussoub, Professor, Mathematics
- Charles Menzies, Professor, Anthropology
- Sima Godfrey, Associate Professor, French Studies
- Ayesha Chaudhry, Associate Professor,
- Judy Z. Segal, Professor, English
- Anthony Paré, Language and Literacy Education
- Jennifer Berdahl , University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business
- John Stockie (UBC Alumnus), Simon Fraser University, Mathematics
- Carla Nappi , University of British Columbia, Department of History
- Don Baker, University of British Columbia, Department of Asian Studies
Colleagues are invited to send me their names if they wish to be included as signatories to this letter.