International Conference

From Targeting in Academia to Promoting Trust and Understanding

University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
27-28 June 2024


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, it is also in these environments where targeted attacks occur by those who may feel threatened by this important work and the impact it has on society. A hate-motivated attack occurred at the University of Waterloo on 28 June 2023.

This in-person Conference (27-28 June 2024) focuses on the broad subject of responding to antagonistic and intimidating reactions to academic research and pedagogy. Scholars in many fields have experienced hostile responses to their work. These responses are often directed to those whose emphasis is on social justice scholarship that focuses on discrimination based on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and religion; science, evolution, and technology research; health and vaccine research; and environment and climate change research. Such antagonism may stem from individuals, organized groups, certain sectors of society, and diverse institutions. It may aim to silence an individual researcher and attack those advocating certain scholarly ideas through harsh actions such as cyberbullying, disrupting public presentations, personal threats, censorship, dismissals, and physical violence.

This interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars, from within and outside of Canada, who work from a wide variety of fields across academia. Its 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. We 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 conference promotes safe conversations and the inclusion of all attendees. Conference attendees are expected to interact in a considerate and thoughtful manner, irrespective of age, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, personal abilities, physical appearance, nationality, race, religion, technology choices, or any differentiating feature. It is understood that all those attending the conference (including organizers, speakers, staff, and volunteers) will contribute to a professional and welcoming atmosphere.

Lead Organizer: Suzan Ilcan, Professor and University Research Chair, Special Advisor on Interdisciplinary Research