Hands off Prof. Avolonto! Stop anti-Black racism at York University!

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Dr. Aimé Avolonto is a Black professor of French Studies at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada whose shocking experience of anti-Black racism was recently exposed in The Fifth Estate documentary “Black on campus” (watch it here), which aired on CBC on February 25, 2021. In response to the broadcast, York University President Rhonda Lenton has renewed her attempts to fire Prof. Avolonto.

This reprisal is outrageous.

Ever since Prof. Avolonto filed a complaint in 2017 about the racist behaviour of two white administrators, he has been subjected to an unrelenting wave of retaliation and retribution. He has endured racist mobbing, a vicious smear campaign, hacking and surveillance of his email, and a multitude of false allegations against him. The experience has harmed his mental health and driven him to attempt suicide more than once.

Instead of investigating Prof. Avolonto’s complaints about anti-Black racism, York University has turned the process into an attack on Prof. Avolonto, promoting trumped-up allegations against him and accepting on face value all testimony by white interviewees while dismissing testimony provided by Black witnesses. Prof. Avolonto has been given no opportunity to refute the allegations or provide his own documented evidence that proves the claims against him are false.

As a result, Prof. Avolonto has had to file four separate complaints at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the first in June 2018.

At the administration’s direction, investigator Roger Beaudry of Aptus Solutions issued reports without Prof. Avolonto’s input. Beaudry has characterized Prof. Avolonto’s attempts to speak out against anti-Black racism as “vexatious” and “malicious” acts of harassment against white people.

Let’s be clear: speaking out against anti-Black racism does not represent harassment of white people. President Lenton’s attempt to silence Prof. Avolonto is a violation of free speech and academic freedom and makes a mockery of the administration’s “framework on Black inclusion.”

Read an overview of Prof. Avolonto's case here.

York University must immediately withdraw its notice to terminate Prof. Avolonto and end its racist campaign against him.

We, the undersigned, demand that:

  • York University immediately cease its termination procedures against Prof. Avolonto
  • York University end the arbitrary and punitive leave it has imposed on Prof. Avolonto since December 1, 2018 and facilitate his return to work, including the assignment of teaching responsibilities, with appropriate accommodations and interim measures for all parties
  • York University take all necessary steps to end the racist harassment and retaliation facing Prof. Avolonto
  • The investigation by Roger Beaudry be suspended indefinitely; and all fees paid to Roger Beaudry by York University be disclosed publicly
  • York University President Rhonda Lenton, Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps, Senior Policy Advisor Barry Miller, and their designates immediately recuse themselves from the handling of Prof. Avolonto’s complaints and any other files related to Prof. Avolonto
  • In consultation with Black community members at York University and external experts, an independent and external investigator, with lived experience of anti-Black racism and formal training or expertise in investigating anti-Black racism, be appointed to review the conduct of the investigator Roger Beaudry of Aptus Solutions and to develop, as above, the terms, conditions, and timeline of such a review
  • The Minister of Colleges and Universities, the Hon. Ross Romano, commit the necessary resources for the aforementioned review to be conducted in a fair and timely manner and with the confidence of the community