Statement on Fords Freedom of Speech MANDATE

Posted on Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Written by Jack Fisher and Kayla Weiler - CSA President and CSA VP External

STATEMENT ON FORD’S FREEDOM OF SPEECH MANDATE

To Premier Doug Ford,

On behalf of the University of Guelph Central Student Association (CSA), 

On September 26, 2018, our board passed a motion to condemn the Ontario government’s directive to create “free speech” policies on University and College campuses across Ontario. We oppose this mandate, and we view this as a challenge to our autonomy, and an initiative meant to interfere with students’ freedom of expression.  

There is no free speech crisis on our campus. The perception of a lack of open discourse ignores the work of our students, faculty associations and labour unions. We highly value our rights to academic discourse and take a number of strides to uphold our values. 

This policy from the Ontario government is a distraction from the work of our academic institutions and ignores the autonomy of student organizations. Additionally, it proposes punishing institutions that refuse to follow this initiative. Utilizing threats to academic funding to post-secondary institutions is a direct attack on our public education system.

The mandate’s use of “free speech” is misleading and misrepresents legitimate work that advances academic research and freedom. We are in full support of freedom of expression and we view this policy as a challenge to our personal freedoms of expression. The policy requirement placed on our university does not benefit or protect students; rather it appears to have the potential to validate hate speech on campus and limit students’ ability to reject these ideas. Threatening to remove funding from universities across Ontario is a clear statement from the Ford government that it does not support public education.

The CSA operates within an anti-oppressive mandate and having to follow a policy written based on the criteria of the Ford government hinders us from upholding a mandate upon which our students democratically voted. This anti-oppressive mandate is needed to effectively reject hate speech from our student union, our campus, and stand in solidarity with all students and minorities.

The student representatives on our internal board of director's requested that we use our voice to encourage the Ontario government to reconsider this mandate and withdraw the free speech directive, especially the egregious threat of decreased funding. The timeline of approval requires Ontario universities to draft, review, and consult with students during the middle of the semester – many of which will have to be passed by the end of October since meetings for 2018 have been set for months and they may not meet before the new year. By and large, the proposed timeline is ignorant of all current review processes and is an ignominious tactic to bend public institutions to a private agenda. The quick turnaround prohibits students' ability to provide meaningful recommendations or amendments to our Senate and Board of Governors. The bottom line is that the timing and guidelines produced by the Ontario government does not aid our universities nor our students with the demanded compliance.

 We as the CSA ask the Ontario government to rescind this policy directive and take a more meaningful approach to address real challenges our campuses face and participate in a democratic process to consult and ask consent from our communities on something that will ubiquitously affect our post-secondary educational system.

 

View Ford's official statement here: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2018/08/ontario-protects-free-speech-on-campuses.html

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