Eduvation Blog

Solidarity & Solace

Good morning, whether you’re celebrating peanut clusters or proofreading, or organizing your home office today.  

Today is of course International Women’s Day, and higher education organizations and institutions have been planning a wide spectrum of events, posts and news stories related to gender equity, violence, and so much else. Last year, I devoted an entire newsletter to #IWD2021, which catalogued IWD videos, lectures, panels, role models, and efforts to feminize science and overcome the glass ceiling.

Unfortunately, this month I’m going to be hard-pressed just to adequately cover developments in Ukraine and implications for higher education – so IWD2022 and many other important topics have to wait. (I promised you last month that I would turn to updates on Laurentian, and the Ontario college faculty are moving into phase 3 of their work-to-rule campaign, and there’s much else…)


Global Outrage (Cont’d)

Yesterday I summarized the global “Outrage & Condemnation” of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, from the general public, the International Criminal Court, Ukrainian student associations, international education groups, scholarly academies (particularly historians), and sector associations in Europe and America. But there was much more that wouldn’t fit…

World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab and president Børge Brende took a clear position back on Feb 27, “deeply condemning” Russia’s “aggression… attacks and atrocities.”  WEF

Australian universities including the Group of Eight have spoken out “condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s people and sovereignty,” and expressing “solidarity with the global research community. uSydneyand others played Ukrainian songs on their campus carillons as a show of support.  Campus Morning Mail


Clearly the Russian people are a bit divided…

Russian university rectors issued a statement on Mar 4 apparently supporting Putin in his decision to “finally end the 8-year confrontation between Ukraine and the Donbas,” and to “protect itself from growing military threats” posed by Ukraine. They remark that this may have been the most difficult decision of Putin’s life, “a hard-won but necessary one,” and that “universities have always been a pillar of the state,” with the primary goal “to serve Russia and develop its intellectual potential.” The rectors add that universities have a fundamental duty “to teach our students to be patriotic and to help their homeland.”  Inside Higher Ed

On the other hand…

4,640 Russian anti-war protesters (and 13 journalists) were arrested in a single day on Sunday, for taking part in “unauthorized rallies” in the streets of 56 cities across Russia. (Human rights watchdog OVD-Info, which provided the estimate, has been declared a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities.) Anti-war protests have occurred daily in Russia since it invaded Ukraine on Feb 24, and OVD-Info estimates authorities have detailed at least 13,000 protesters. New “misinformation” laws make public protests punishable by up to 15 years in prison.  Washington Post



CdnPSE Consensus

From the safe distance of Canada, most PSE sector associations and institutional leaders have felt compelled to condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine, while supporting scholars and students from both countries. (Canada is also home to the largest Ukrainian diaspora outside of Russia, making this war particularly painful.) What follows can only be a selection of examples, which seem particularly compelling to me…

Universities Canada echoed the APLU statement I cited yesterday: “Canada’s universities strongly condemn this invasion of a free, independent and democratic nation,” while supporting faculty, staff and students from Ukraine, Russia, and other countries impacted. UnivCan

The Council of Ontario Universities “stands in unwavering support with all those who are impacted” by the “hostile invasion taking place in Ukraine” and its “needless suffering and turmoil.” COU

Colleges & Institutes Canada says its member institutions are “deeply troubled by the continued violent invasion of Ukraine by Russia,” and “stand with the people of Ukraine, and all non-Ukrainians also suffering in the country” while “also acknowledge the many Russian citizens in Canada, and around the world, who are denouncing the actions of their government.” (About 1,500 Ukrainian students, and 1,400 Russian students, were studying at CICan institutions in 2021.)  CICan



Shock & Outrage

There is a LOT of commonality in the statements issued early in March by CdnPSEs. All express sadness or shock, most condemn aggression and unnecessary conflict, many reflect on their community’s ties to the region, and quite a few emphasize the need to be compassionate with Ukrainians and Russians alike. Universities in particular emphasize the role of higher education to deepen understanding and contribute to peace. Here are some representative examples…

Western U issued an official statement Mar 2, “responding with shock and outrage at the aggression and unprovoked violence in Ukraine, at the hands of Putin’s government.”  Western News


uToronto president Meric Gertler condemned Putin’s “violence and aggression” in Ukraine, which has been met with “horror, outrage, anguish, and utter disbelief.” He mentions the many Ukrainian students and staff at UofT, and reflects on meeting Volodymyr Zelensky when UofT hosted the Ukraine Reform Conference in 2019, on the future of Ukraine. On behalf of UofT, Gertler “strongly supports all diplomatic efforts to achieve a swift end to the war, and the return of peace, security and democracy.”  uToronto  |  UTnews

“At a time when world events are darkened by violence and division, let us remind ourselves of the unique responsibility of universities: to foster deeper understanding of complex issues, to bring people together to learn from each other through dialogue, and to advance the human condition globally through education, discovery and outreach.”Meric Gertler, president, uToronto


Queen’s U principal Patrick Deane observes that, as “the world watched in horror,” the campus “felt the effects immediately,” but also that it has become necessary to declare “how profoundly repugnant the Russian invasion of Ukraine is to the values upon which institutions like our own are built,” and to “stand in special solidarity” with Ukraine’s 800+ PSE institutions.  Queen’s

“Autocratic regimes extinguish the expressive freedom and organic flourishing of students and scholars. For those who love and believe in the university, we cannot be agnostic about, or indifferent to, the vibrancy of liberal democracy.” – Ronald Daniels, president, Johns Hopkins U (cited by Patrick Deane, principal of Queen’s U)


Centennial College president Craig Stephenson denounced “the unjust and unjustifiable invasion of sovereign Ukraine by Russia,” and wanted those with family living in the region – “on both sides of the conflict” – to know “that we stand with you and support you.” Stephenson emphasized that his condemnation was directed at Russian leadership, not the people of Russia, and that we must support Russian colleagues and students as well. He also encouraged faculty to provide accommodation to students impacted by the conflict. (Stephenson also released a video version: see #ICYMI below.)  Centennial

“My unreserved condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is directed squarely at the leadership of Russia, and not at the people of Russia… As we reach out to the Ukrainian community… we must also reach out and support our Russian colleagues and students, whose families could well have be drawn in and impacted by this aggression through no fault of their own.”Craig Stephenson, president, Centennial College



Prairie Affinity

About 15% of Saskatchewan residents are of Ukrainian descent, so the province has seen more than its share of rallies, protests, and heartfelt messages…

uSaskatchewan president Peter Stoicheff observes that “Saskatchewan is home to one of Canada’s highest populations of people of Ukrainian descent,” and that UofS delivers programs and conducts research in Ukrainian culture, language, politics and history.  uSask

Saskatchewan Polytechnic president Larry Rosia says he is “deeply saddened by the destruction and loss of life” in Ukraine, but notes he is simultaneously “uplifted by reports of the strength, resiliency, and courage of the Ukrainian people.”  SKPoly


Like Saskatchewan, many Ukrainians settled in Manitoba over the years and the province maintains strong connections. (More than 180,000 Manitobans identify as Ukrainian – about 13% of the province.)

uManitoba president Michael Benarroch was among the first to condemn Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine in a statement on Feb 24, noting that “the anxiety and frustration of having to watch this situation unfold from afar while fearing for family and friends in Ukraine is deeply painful.” UM students joined a rally at the Manitoba legislature 2 days later, and have been involved in Ukraine fundraisers that have achieved national attention. (The Faculty of Social Work and the Department of German and Slavic Studies issued their own statements of solidarity on Mar 2 and Mar 4.)  uManitoba  |  UM Today

Booth UC shared a statement from chancellor Floyd Tidd, praying for Salvation Army officers, soldiers and employees serving in Ukraine and Russia, and for world leaders, who need wisdom and discernment. (“For those seeking war, we pray they will instead ‘turn swords into ploughshares’ and pursue peace.”)  Booth UC

Providence UC notes that “some of our alumni are on the frontlines” in Ukraine, while many in the campus community have family members living in the war zone. They share some moving excerpts from conversations with Ukrainian alumni and colleagues about the crisis, including enrolment officer Volodymyr Shevchenko.  Providence



Light in the Darkness

Obviously, it is difficult – but essential – to send a message of optimism, even when the Ukrainian people are hopelessly outgunned in a battle for survival. (Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelinsky is doing a phenomenal job of that from the front lines, and I hope to devote a whole issue to that subject soon.) But some CdnPSE leaders managed to sound a note of hope, too…

Cape Breton U president David Dingwall acknowledged the terrible humanitarian crisis, of course, but suggested too that “we can be a real source of strength to each other” by standing in solidarity, and calling for a peaceful resolution.  CBU

“Let us come together to support one another – and also to do what we can in solidarity with students and academics in Ukraine who have reached out to colleagues around the world. We can be a real source of strength to each other in times of fear and loss in all parts of the world.”David Dingwall, president, Cape Breton U


uRegina president Jeff Keshen observes that “these are indeed trying times for humanity,” emerging from the COVID19 pandemic, facing inflation and social polarization, and now the war in Eastern Europe. “A modern democracy is under attack before our eyes, and with it, the lives of millions both within Ukraine and beyond are being shattered… Our hearts ache for our Ukrainian friends and family.” Keshen encourages us to counter these “dark times” by “affirming a sense of humanity” through compassion and charitable contributions, and notes that the UofR executive team has committed to donate personally to help the people of Ukraine.  uRegina

Wilfrid Laurier U president Deb MacLatchy observes that “there are many in our Laurier community with personal and professional ties to both Ukraine and Russia,” and that “in times like this, universities have an important role to play in contextualizing complex issues and fostering dialogue on the increasing number of humanitarian crises around the world.”  WLU

“In times like this, universities have an important role to play in contextualizing complex issues and fostering dialogue on the increasing number of humanitarian crises around the world.”Deborah MacLatchy, president, Wilfrid Laurier U


Selkirk College’s Mir Centre for Peace naturally “strongly condemns” Russia’s “dangerous and blatant violation of the UN Charter,” and stands with the people of Ukraine “as they endure violence and resist occupation.” (The Mir Centre, named for a Russian word meaning peace, community, and world, was established in 1999 in a restored Doukhobor communal dwelling.) They assure us that “non-violent civil resistance is also a source of great power and has been successful in displacing authoritarian leaders and resisting occupying forces before,” and urge us to support and amplify the “under-reported” voices of protesters in Ukraine and Russia. They also remind us to reject the temptation to demonize or dehumanize any ethnic group: “The actions of any nation’s government do not necessarily represent the will of its people.” Moreover, the soldiers are not the cause of the conflict, but are often victims of violence too, and not by choice.  Selkirk

“There are complex historical and political roots to this crisis… Let us resist over-simplified narratives that reduce the conflict to a single cause or frame it in binary terms. There are many forces and failures that have brought us to this terrible place… Let us practice humility and openness in our quest to learn more.”Mir Centre for Peace, Selkirk College



Yesterday and today I’ve been summarizing the scathing and inspiring words of political, business and higher education leaders – but of course, actions speak louder! Give me a day or so and I’ll summarize the sanctions and boycotts that PSE institutions have announced (and rejected), to intensify the pressure on the Kremlin without abandoning their peer scholars in Russia…




There have been virtual ceremonies and presidential messages flooding YouTube from CdnPSE, but here are a couple of examples…  

StFX Stands with Ukraine

St Francis Xavier U president Andy Hakin hosts this 17-min virtual ceremony raising the Ukrainian flag on campus, in “a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian nation and its people as they fight for democracy and freedom.” The ceremony includes remarks from members of the campus community and the community leaders from Antigonish.  YouTube


To Centennial’s Community

Centennial College president Craig Stephenson shares a personal message to the campus Ukrainian and Russian community, in this sincere 4-min video.  YouTube



As always, thanks for reading!

I don’t anticipate my focus on the Ukraine crisis will go on nearly as long as the pandemic focus did, but I definitely have 20 or so more topics to cover, based on what’s already unfolded there. If you’re finding it helpful – or too much – do drop me a line and let me know!

Stay safe and be well,


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