October 16, 2023 

Dear University of Waterloo community,

As we return to our campuses after Reading Week, the world looks different than it did before we left. Devastation continues to unfold as the war between Israel and Hamas escalates. Many innocent civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, Muslim and Jewish, are caught in the conflict and suffering unspeakable harm.  Many in our community are scared and in pain.

I express my sorrow for those who are grieving unimaginable loss, and I want to extend support to anyone whose family or friends are directly impacted by the conflict.

I want to be clear, as noted in statements made last week, that the University of Waterloo condemns the heinous terrorist attack by Hamas that included the murders and kidnappings of innocent civilians. As we continue to bear witness to the escalating violence and loss of innocent lives, we join international voices, including the United Nations, to condemn the rapidly worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza. The increasing impact on innocent civilians is horrific.

The University stands against all forms of hate and promotion of violence. This includes anti-Semitism or Islamophobia on our own campuses. We reject any form of harassment or intimidation based on someone’s faith, national origin or any aspect of someone’s identity. Indeed, under the provincial Ontario Human Rights Code, discriminatory speech and actions are restricted and under the Criminal Code of Canada, hate speech is a criminal offence.

As a University community, we also value the freedom to express our ideas and thoughts. It is our purpose here at Waterloo to foster discovery and critical assessment. The ability to speak freely is a core principle for achieving this purpose. As is the case at other universities around the world, the fostering of civility and community that we strive for at Waterloo is challenged by upholding this principle, especially in situations of global unrest. However, it is essential that we maintain a supportive, respectful and tolerant environment, and all members of our community must respect Policy 33 on Ethical Behaviour.

I call on us all to always centre those who are scared and in pain when we speak. This violence so easily divides us. It is our responsibility as people engaged in learning to meet those we disagree with openly and to approach this time of volatility in the world with care and humility.

As we come back to campus, the safety and wellbeing of our community is a priority for us all. I know you will meet each other with care and compassion.

I stand with you as we all navigate this challenging time now and in the future.

With care,
Vivek Goel 
President and Vice-Chancellor 
Office of the President


2023 communications to graduate students