Asian Studies Statement on the Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Event

Thanks to a generous donation by the Sidhu family, the UBC Department of Asian Studies has proudly hosted the Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Event for the past decade. Each year the event recognizes excellence in Punjabi literature and language, celebrating local Punjabi writers and recognizing the student winners of our annual Punjabi-language essay contest. In past years, this event has been held in-person and has included student performances, as well as one or more keynote speakers.

The event this year was impacted by the pandemic, as were a number of other student-centred events, both in this department and across the university. As the day of this event drew nearer, it became clear to our event committee that we would be unable to hold the same caliber of event in a remote setting, due to the challenge of incorporating a meaningful award ceremony for students and the usual student activities in an online version of the event. Some students who had planned to participate also raised concerns about one of the invited speakers, and expressed their preference to withdraw from the event.

While some students did express a reluctance to share a virtual stage or participate in an event with a controversial speaker, the decision to postpone this event was made by the members of the event committee out of a concern that many of its key components would not translate well to a remote environment. The decision to postpone this event does not reflect any interest in censorship by the University or the Department of Asian Studies. The department of Asian Studies and UBC are, and always will be, committed to the practice of academic freedom that is enshrined in University Senate policy.

We are now reviewing our options for rescheduling this annual event, either virtually or in person, once students have returned to campus in the fall.