Conference will promote trust and understanding in academia

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Faculty of Arts and Office of Research are convening an international, interdisciplinary conference, From Targeting in Academia to Promoting Trust and Understanding, taking place on our campus June 27-28, 2024. Now out, the Call for Proposals invites university researchers and teachers in any field to consider the broad subject of responding to antagonistic and intimidating reactions to academic research and pedagogy.

Institutions of higher learning are environments where new ideas, visions, and discoveries are cultivated. In these environments, unexplored areas offer the space for curiosity to flourish and for rigorous enquiry to deepen understanding. It’s where professors and students conduct extensive research in the continuous pursuit of knowledge, trust, understanding, and justice. These pursuits are enriched through diversity of thought and perspective in an environment where we strive for a spirit of pluralism.

Unfortunately, universities, including our own, can be the target for attacks by those who may feel threatened by this important work and the impact it has on society. The conference responds to this challenge, and, in particular, it is part of a broad institutional response to the hate-motivated attack that occurred in a University of Waterloo classroom on June 28, 2023.

“The shocking attack shows how desperately our world needs more human understanding,” Dr. Sheila Ager, Dean of Arts, wrote earlier this fall. “If knowledge is power, then greater knowledge of ourselves should give us the strength and capacity to combat the forces of hatred, bigotry, and violence, whether in society or in ourselves.

Led by Dr. Suzan Ilcan, Professor and University Research Chair, Special Advisor on Interdisciplinary Research, the conference will bring together scholars, from within and outside of Canada, who work from a wide variety of fields across academia. “The purpose is to underline experiences of how we engage in cooperative and valuable conversations, share tools or approaches that are working well, and cultivate critical thinking skills, openness, and freedom of expression,” says Dr. Ilcan. Conference participants will discuss ways in which we can foster debate with those who defend opposing views. Within and alongside these common themes, attention will be given to the issue of trust and the role it plays in higher education, in government, and in other associated spheres.

The anticipated outcomes identified by members of the conference organizing committee include fostering transnational networking, engaging in future research and pedagogic collaborations, and publishing one or more special journal issues on topics dealing with Targeting in Academia. Importantly, the conference will also contribute to the development of principles of freedom of expression.

From Targeting in Academia to Promoting Trust and Understanding is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and is thematically tied to the 2023-24 speaker series, Antagonism and Intimidation in Academia. Read more about the conference and Call for Proposals.