An open letter signed by 82 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award recipients spanning the past 21 years is calling on the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA) to rescind the award that far-right activist and former Rebel Media host Faith Goldy received as a student.
Recipients of the Cressy Awards have been selected every year by the UTAA and the Division of University Advancement since 1994.
The award recognizes students in their graduating year for involvement in extracurricular activities and is named after former city councillor and former U of T Vice-President of Development and University Relations Gordon Cressy.
Goldy, who at the time went by Faith Goldy-Bazos and was a student enrolled at Trinity College, was awarded the Cressy Award in 2012 for her involvement with the Association of Political Science Students.
Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) Student Advisor Gavin Nowlan and former ASSU President Abdullah Shihipar are organizing the petition. Nowlan told The Varsity that he sent the letter through campus mail on the morning of March 19.
“It seemed incongruous that one of the awards that highlights student leadership and work in the community has been awarded to someone who has views that, in our mind, are so far from the views of the University of Toronto,” said Nowlan.
Part of the letter states that Goldy has “openly expressed support and advocated for the goals of the white nationalist movement.”
During her time at Rebel Media, Goldy has expressed support for the white genocide conspiracy theory, which has roots in the white supremacist movement, as well as a “crusade” against Muslims.
In an interview, she also recited and defended the ‘14 Words,’ a slogan commonly used in the white supremacist movement.
The letter also notes that Goldy “has appeared as a supportive guest on white supremacist media.”
In August 2017, Goldy appeared on a podcast affiliated with the Daily Stormer, an online neo-Nazi media outlet. She was subsequently fired from Rebel Media for that interview.
The award’s namesake has also expressed support for the petition. Cressy told Canadaland that the signatories, “in many ways represent what the Cressy award is all about.”
U of T Interim Director of Media Relations Elizabeth Church said on March 19 that the university had not yet received the petition, but would give it “thoughtful consideration” once received. She also told The Varsity that there was no precedent for a Cressy Award recipient, or a recipient of any similar awards, being stripped of their honour.
On March 26, UTAA President Scott MacKendrick and Assistant VP, Alumni Relations Barbara Dick released a letter in response to the petition. In the letter, MacKendrick and Dick thanked Nowlan for brining the petition to their attention and condemned hatred, but declined to rescind Goldy’s award.
“The candidates’ files are judged according to what they have contributed at the time of the award, on the basis of demonstrated evidence as judged by a rigorous process,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to rescind the award granted to Ms. Goldy-Bazos in 2012.”
The UTAA’s letter also condemned hatred and bigotry in general terms, but did not directly address the controversy surrounding Goldy specifically. Nowlan expressed disappointment in the UTAA’s response.
“I can understand their reluctance to set a precedent in taking an award away from an alumnus for their actions after their time at U of T, but I am saddened to see that the University didn’t take this opportunity –beyond their boilerplate response, to clearly state that Ms. Goldy’s views are anathema to the University of Toronto,” he said in an email to The Varsity.
Goldy did not respond to The Varsity’s inquiries, but tweeted, “Typical Marxist tricks! Rewrite history to fit your ideology” in response to the petition.
The day after the letter was sent, Goldy was at Wilfrid Laurier University speaking at an event held by a student group, which was disrupted after protesters pulled a fire alarm.
Editor’s Note (March 27): This article has been updated to include the UTAA’s letter in response to the petition, as well as Nowlan’s response the letter.