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Note that the following feedback statements have not been altered, and spelling and grammar errors have not been corrected.

Terrin Newton

Great! Full support from me.

Scott Jeffery

I applaud you for taking the lead on this paper. I would issue one comment. You refer to Laurier's starting place for asserting the boundaries of free expression as the Canadian legal framework. I believe you should go one step further in including what is the basis of that framework , in that, biblical principles. This is also the framework on which the very University was established on back when it was a Lutheran school. It would be an injustice to those that established this university in the beginning to not include this history.

Anonymous

As I read through this draft I constantly had to ask myself who it was set out to protect. It appears as though it is a statement to protect groups that invite ‘wrong headed’ discussions and topics to campus. Though I understand free speech should allow open and critical debate, I find it hypocritical that Laurier would support ‘wrong headed’ debates that jeopardize the free speech, safety, and participation of other groups on campus. Though I support free speech, I do not support speakers who are invited with intention to further isolate, intimidate and harm specific members of my university campus. This draft needs to be re-written with consideration for these people. Before Laurier can support free speech and an uncensored campus, it needs to have a plan to protect those whose lives could be the consequence of ‘wrong headed’ ideas that are invited to our campus.

John Scott Turton

In these difficult and polarizing times I commend my Alma mater for this balanced and thoughtful statement. While upholding the principals of free speech and reasoned exploration of divergent views, the statement stays true to the essential and equally important principals of diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment. Bravo!

Mark Davies

Under the definition of diversity, the ideas of gender identity and gender expression should be added. In these days we are becoming increasingly aware of the presence of (mostly negative) experiences of Trans* people and the necessity to be inclusive and protective of non-binary gender identities. Also, whether a person is Transgender or not, the right to express one's preferred pronouns, forms of address, and choice of clothing should be respected and supported.

Anonymous

While I appreciate the reason for the new policy and can see how much work has gone into the draft, the biggest challenge will be in this area: “Harassment Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome” The TA who began this debacle knew or should have known the subject matter would be unwelcome. Presented by a more experienced instructor who could fashion a balanced lecture with appropriate preamble, this would never have been necessary. Having said that, it’s never a bad idea to create discussion and look deeper into policy. I just don’t think this will be the end to challenges. And I’m sorry, but I will never accept a Hitleresque presentation as falling under the realm of free speech.

Dave Silva

I am glad to see that Laurier has taken this position. It is not their role to policy public discussion but it is their role to ensure that public discussion isn't quashed. If you question Laurier's stance, think of yourself in the other position. If one of the issues you really care about (say, women's rights) were being opposed, would you want the university to step in and take away your right to express yourself? No. The same goes for any discussion, so long as it isn't directly inciting violence (think death chants, riots, etc.)

Sara Feir

This seems to be a well-thought-out statement. I do have a question about the wording where it talks about "strong and balanced pedagogy." I think I know what I mean when I say those words, but does everyone? Taking the Sheppard case as an example, what would "strong and balanced pedagogy" have looked like in that case? In my opinion, having once been a TA at Laurier myself, I think it would suffice for me to say that "the following video is used for teaching purposes only. Pay attention to the different meanings that the two speakers give to certain words." To me, that would frame the clip in a balanced context. Even if I, as a blind person, had heard a clip disparraging of persons with disabilities, if a TA or a professor had presented it as a teaching tool, I would have taken it as such. I suppose that what I am trying to get at is that we are a culture based on perception. I have been harrassed, say, if I perceive myself to have been harrassed. Will there be enough processes in place to ensure that this kind of perception-based thinking does not rule the day? The statement seems to say that there will. however, the Sheppard case really did concern me as a former student and Teaching Assistant at WLU, and I hope that this statement and whatever proceeds from it will be helpful in fostering truly free and open intellectual debate. Incidentally, thank you for making this comment form accessible to screen-reading software for the blind. It adds weight to the words of the statement for me.

Anonymous

The statement is well grounded. Regardless of your own point of view, it is vital that we allow the Laurier environment to be a place where all perspectives can be presented, heard, and seen. Although difficult at times, we must endure to preserve our society of freedom and expression. Laurier is a leading academic institution, not only in Canada but the world. Remember many come here from places where this is not even dreamed of. All and everything must be respected, treated and protected at an equal level.

Alex Ngo

I feel that the Statement can be improved by briefly mentioning actions taken to support WLU's values and culture. Otherwise, these may be viewed as just words without assurance of accountability and consequences. It may be more effective to mention that WLU policies and code of conduct will be (or have been) updated to ensure anyone caught either abusing or restricting free speech could face disciplinary action. Without enforceability, it may be difficult to convince the public that WLU is committed to upholding its Statement, especially after the embarrassing and shameful PR events that occurred recently.

Anonymous

First of all, I applaud WLU for the following statements in the draft: - "to ensure the free and open exchange of ideas in the spirit of intellectual and critical enquiry" - "affirming that it is not the role of the university to censor speech" I was happy with the way the statement was going until I read the section on limitations. I think that most of the terms are clearly defined and are reasonable restrictions except for harassment. The Ontario Human Rights Code has a very broad definition of harassment which would seem to be at odds with freedom of expression. Perhaps some clarity around this topic might be helpful: i.e. in a University setting what does harassment mean?

Matthew Pollak

“My comments can be summarized in one word:ambiguity. Something as important as freedom of speech should leave nothing up to interpretation.”

Victoria Bain

Inclusion of the verbiage of "exposure" to viewpoints that do not always reinforce your own belief system. Confirmation bias is alive and well on our campuses and in our "cyber lives" where algorithms ensure we see only what we agree with. There is an absolute necessity to be curious and critical about opposing viewpoints and seek to understand. The world does not cater to and will not protect students from the viewpoints, comments, videos, speakers, etc. that they do not agree with. The university would be doing it's students a disservice by shielding the population from perspectives that are different, challenging, or even ugly. Students need to be awake, not lulled into blissful ignorance of the realities of our world.

Mattewh Earl

I thought that the draft statement was crafted thoughtfully and with the appropriate prejudice. I liked that the Task Force used views on WLU's core purpose and values as the basis for the statement. I also was looking for and appreciate the inclusion of a specific statement of Laurier's position that exercising expression did not include efforts to stifle or silence any one side nor the expectation that one would be protected from ideas that they found 'offensive'. It was really important that these two items be included clearly. That said, I personally would have like to have seen a more simple and definitive statement. I found it a little long and somewhat difficult to decipher until I read and had time to contemplate the statement in its entirety. If this statement is going to be useful in practical terms perhaps it needs to be a little more 'plain language'. Personally, I would also have like to have seen it even a little more liberal, or perhaps 'libertarian'. Something along the lines of 'if it's not illegal or unconstitutional, then it's OK' - obviously carving out hate speech, libel or anything like that but green-lighting anything else. That's my personal leaning only. I'm aware too that some ambiguity in the statement is necessary to deal with situations that we've perhaps not thought of yet. I also took pause at and agreed with your statement that Laurier's function is a place of learning, not as a town square so discourse of any kind should be in that context. I hadn't considered that before. I believe it's a really good statement. Thank you again for the opportunity to participate

Paul Gehrs

Overall, I appreciate the words, tone and commitments of the draft statement. I am wondering if there is a place to lift up the place of Indigenous wisdom in the journey of living out freedom of expression. While the document clearly seeks freedom for all voices, the history of colonization may mean that equality of voices may not be heard in the same way in all circles. One idea is to begin this statement by acknowledging the Indigenous territory on which Laurier carries out its mission. I encourage Laurier to include the territories of all the campus in such an acknowledgement. Has the task force sought input from Indigenous leaders and/or elders on this statement? While I appreciate words such as "learning, scholarship and creativity," these words may be communicating cultural assumptions that do not help support the long journey of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Peoples. Indigenous voices may bring wise words on how to express a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. I am a non-indigenous person, so I wish to make no more comment on this beyond raising the question: Has the task force sought input from Indigenous leaders and/or elders on this statement?

Carl Baltare

By and large a very well thought out document and policy. Will be interested in seeing it applied in specific instances in the coming years. One caution - very concerned about the notion of restricting "illegal forms of expression" such as "harassment". The definition provided in the glossary is so broad and general that it appears to open the door to charges of harassment should comments or conduct that is known or ought to reasonably be known to be "unwelcome or offensive, embarrassing, demeaning or unwelcome". And down the legal rabbit hole we all go. Claims of being offended, embarrassed, demeaned and feeling unwelcomed are ripe for claiming prohibitions on free speech. this section needs further definition as it applied to on campus freedom of speech.

James Black

This exercise shows us that nothing has or will change. The administrative trolls have gone through the exercise of showing they got outside input, but there never should have to be any need for this if we truly believed in freedom of speech - not just for those with whom we agree - but for everyone. With this document we do nothing but trade one censor for another and academic freedom be damned.

Patricia Hassard

Bravo for tackling this sensitive subject head on. Freedom of expression is an essential principle to be upheld in any society and your statement has given it life in an academic setting.

John Kolb

line 16 '.....creation of knowledge.....'? perhaps, advancement of knowledge line 30 ' ...advancing intellectual excellence...'? perhaps (again), advancing knowledge The incident that provoked this exercise, turned on the fact that the tutorial leader was wearing 'two hats'; student and WLU employee. It can only be hoped that practical application of the final statement on freedom of expression will clear up any confusion. Additionally, it is hoped that practical application will streamline resolution of those issues that are bound to occur in an institution that professes said statement. thank you

Betty Xu

The draft statement on freedom of expression is extremely comprehensive and has a logical flow to address any existing concerns or limitations in an admirable way. The messaging is clear, strong and meaningful. I do think sectioning off the core values for each section may help make it more consumable. Providing titles to each section may also helps decrease repetition and outline the outcome/benefits of how Laurier facilitates free speech. For instance: Diversity of Thought, Inclusive Freedom, Challenging Ideas, etc.

Ronald King

Having read the draft " Freedom of Expression" I would like to congratulate the committee on its efforts to capture the importance of freedom of expression to an academic institution while also being mindful of the limitations that need exist given the law of land and the diversity of beliefs. I am encouraged by this first step and I am eager to read more in the future regarding details of implementation .

Andrew Sainz-Nieto

The draft is a step towards the right direction, but it currently stands as simple words on a page. What will Laurier do to ensure these expectations are met? What will the consequences be should freedom of expression be stifle? This document needs an enforcement process and it needs teeth.

Jeff Bowden

The Draft Statement on Freedom of Expression appears to hit the right balance between promoting critical thought and debate and being sensitive to individual's cultural and personal beliefs. An academic institution is meant to bring people out of their comfort zones and biases in order to promote understanding and knowledge. It is unfortunate that it to be a very public incident to bring this discussion about, but I hope that the Statement will serve the Laurier community well and ensure that students benefit from an exemplary, thought-provoking educational experience.

Jim Catton

With all due respect for the obvious work that has gone into this document it does little to assuage my negative views of Laurier since this matter became the issue it is. The document takes far too long to state the essentials and in doing so signals its discomfort with freedom of speech. It would benefit from the more succinct statement of the Chicago Principles of Freedom that was no doubt studied in this process. Of particular note in the Chicago statement is the unequivocal limitations on the expression of dissent that will be permitted, which provides the backbone to supporting freedom of speech. The draft is far too vague on this type of support. But, as always, actions speak louder than words - and when pulling a fire alarm can disrupt the freedoms the document purports to embrace and then the university will not provide a venue for the rebooking of the speaker, claiming 'didn't have enough time' for security planning - then the words don't seem to matter all that much.

Anonymous

Within a learning environment like seminars we can express ourselves to whether or not we liked something shown. Yes we can go to the professor or the one in charge of that seminar. The draft itself is a good framework to continue a good learning environment.

john dunbar

The whole thing is an exercise in lunacy, If you had simply accepted literally the gift of the European Enlightenment which gave us Freedom of Speech initially, THERE WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY NO RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH. i.e., anybody has the right to say anything, anywhere and at any time. That leaves you idiots with nothing to do.

Anonymous

I think the draft statement on freedom of expression is well-crafted. There aren't any points I take issue with. If the tenants of the statement are upheld in practice, Laurier will have set itself on the right path toward redeeming the academic integrity of the University.

Anonymous

Don’t disagree with the message at all. It is however at least twice as long as it should be. It reads as a proposal, not a statement. Brevity is bliss!

patrick gruber

I did Honours Philosophy and History at WLU, and then MA History at U of W, 1968. At WLU I tied for top mark with the son of your President in the "Logic and Epistemology" course. Obviously, the WLU administration at that time valued logical thought, evidence based argument, and open inquiry. The Lindsey Sheppard abuse by WLU faculty, and the highly intelligent and informed opinions of Jordan Peterson make me question the status of open inquiry at the university level in today's world. I suggest that you seek the help of Prof. Peterson to clean house and become a shinning light for academia.

John Pellowe

The draft statement appears to be a strong statement in support of free speech and civil discussion even when there are disagreements, so I am very pleased. The proof of the University's commitment to this statement will be in the ability of the University to: 1. Host speakers who challenge the prevailing attitudes of the Humanities faculty (based on how abusively they handled Lindsay Shepherd). 2. Approve student clubs that promote legal, if unpopular, positions. 3. Hold the right people accountable for damage due to protesters. In the past, the victims of potential violent protest have had to post security for damage, etc., which just adds to the silencing of unpopular speech. Instead, the University should hold the protesting groups responsible. So, well done. Now let's see what it looks like in practice.

Christian Malleck

I feel it is very thorough, and in line with the spirit of Universities as places of learning, exploration of ideas, and a place for all voices to be heard. I also feel it takes an intellectual stance on important philosophies of expression and challenge, while committing to the Canadian ideals of protecting people from hate speech.

Mitchell Kooh

The content of the statement seems reasonable (if a bit vague and buzz wordy). I do, however, have some concerns with the style and grammar of the statement. I appreciate that this version is only a draft, but still, I'm a bit shocked by the number of errors, especially considering the number of professors listed as members of the task force. Inconsistent use of serial commas (see par. 10), misspellings (see par. 5 "instil"), inconsistent use of 'which' vs. 'that' in restrictive/nonrestrictive clauses (see basically the whole document), comma usage issues, verb tense inconsistencies (see sentence 3, par. 5), vague pronoun references (see sentence 4 of par. 1), etc. These are relatively simple errors that I noticed on just a surface reading of the statement. Moreover, on a purely stylistic level, the excessive number of lists makes the statement a bit difficult to read. I could say a lot more about specific stylistic and grammatical flaws, but instead, I suppose I will just say that I think it's important to have a statement that is not only clear but also compelling. Consider consulting with a proofreader or copy editor. Perhaps this entire comment is unnecessary because you were planning to fix the grammatical and stylistic errors in subsequent drafts, but I figured I might as well offer my two cents now. I hope that the statement will actually be heeded by the university and its students and not simply ignored. As a recent graduate, I for one have had enough of Laurier's empty words and assurances.

Sue Gillespie

Generally good statement. I do have concerns about the provision: "Laurier reserves the right to reasonably manage the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of its community, or impinge upon the physical safety of its members." It seems that this is what allowed the situation with the TA last fall to occur.

Anonymous

Since my first day on campus I have been proud to call myself a Laurier student, and now Alumni. I will be the first to say that yes, in order to have a proper education one must be exposed to both sides of an argument. It is of the upmost importance to hear the evidence both sides have to offer in order to form an educated opinion. In any branch of science, there is constant debate over the truth, or scientific facts. There is also incomparable value in the expression of ideas, and diverse opinions in the academic settings. However, within the context of protests against the university concerning freedom of opinion and ideas, even the unpopular ones, I disagree with the current position of the University. No one is calling for the restriction of progressive, and inclusive ideas. Instead, the students are asking to do away with opinions of the past, those that foster discrimination and hate. Any opinion presented in the right way, and at the right time, can influence those who are young and impressionable. For this reason, the purposeful sharing, and spreading of such opinions in the 'unpopular opinion speaker series' that foster discrimination and hate is unacceptable. Using the excuse of 'students need to see each side to form an opinion' simply implies that there is an acceptable point of view out there which labels groups based on race, or otherwise uncontrollable features, as superior to others. There is no, and should not be, any room for the opinions of bigots, racists, and misogynists in the realm of academia. Opinions and 'ideas' that foster such beliefs hold no basis in academics, and giving them a platform to share such beliefs in an academic setting is simply repugnant. Overall, Laurier should be an environment that fosters acceptance and inclusion, as well as academic debate, in order to shape young minds into progressive citizens. Allowing those on our campus to speak and present their ideas that are not based in any kind of academic or scientific proofs, and intrude on the rights of individuals, is a complete disgrace to the sanctity of the academic community.

Anonymous

This statement is ambiguous. It is not apparent that this "Freedom of Expression" protects students that identify as conservative, or social conservative. Will the implementation of the Task Force recommendations allow those students to express conservative views without fear of reprisal, in the form of either social ostracism or worse through academic outcomes? This ideological cohort represents a large percentage of the population, and undoubtedly the student population. Further, if they choose, students should be able to experience university life without political or ideological conflict. Not everyone defines their daily life through a political lens. When I went to Wilfrid Laurier in the late 1980's, the school and its faculty were not overly political and focused on academics. Recent events have likely done greater damage to the school's reputation than it appreciates. Further, I suspect those students who identify as conservative will take this "Freedom of Expression" statement with scepticism, and the administration will be judged by its actual implementation. As an alumni, who supports the school by consistently employing WLU co-ops, I was very disappointed and embarrassed by recent events.

Anonymous

This is a well thought out statement and one that all academic institutions can strive towards. The concern I have is that those who find their voice on either side of the spectrum are at constant war with the institutions we entrust to advance us forwards and in looking to advance this misguided and misinformed viewpoints will use WLU and any other public space available to them. I would caution all those who have authority on these matters to be mindful of who they permit on campus and to be aware of their objectives. Our public institutions stand for progress and open-mindedness and I would like it to stay that way.

Anonymous

This draft statement is a lengthy fulfillment of a promise intended to take the public eye off this institution of “higher learning” thus it becomes a public relations/propaganda tool without ever committing to changing the cultural that produced the need for it in the first place. The language is ambiguous enough that it can be interpreted to maintain the status quo while offering platitudes on the value of free speech and expression of contradictory opinions. However, what else could be expected from a Task Force comprised of a majority of people who support the restriction of freedom of speech and share similar political ideologies. As one example; paragraph 1, sentence 2 begins “As history clearly demonstrates”. This is a phrase could easily be understood to mean that Canada, and therefore WLU, is a totalitarian state. However, given the remainder of the sentence and the one following perhaps that is exactly what is being implied by suggesting that diverse voices come only from the oppressed as they challenge the repressiveness of those perceived to have the power. History has clearly demonstrated that this Marxist ideology led to the greatest repression of free speech and freedoms resulting in the murder of millions of people the world has ever known. The history of the 21st century has yet to be written but hopefully it will reflect the idea that in this democracy the loudest voices come from those who wish to challenge the status quo. The majority of people, who either support the status quo or don’t know/care what the fuss is about remain silent. In the 21st century, it is the majority who fear to speak up for fear of reprisals, legal or otherwise, threatened or actual. The vocal minority seem have more protection or means of repressing counter arguments through the sometimes “twisted” interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code. As in totalitarian states (right and left wing) as referenced above it is the minority who have the power and they use it to repress the majority while advancing their ideology until the majority acquiesce.

Nicholas Dietrich

Intellectual discomfort should never be used to restrict relevant expression in the classroom.

Anonymous

Thank you for considering my opinion of this very serious subject. The statement is perfect and covers all areas of discussion. I am PROUD to be a member of the Wilfrid Laurier Community.

Anonymous

I believe the draft statement is comprehensive and clear. While it is a bit lengthy, the clarity it brings for all stakeholders is an overriding important factor. Congratulations on moving forward with such a challenging topic in such a positive way!

Anonymous

This is a massively important line in the sand for Laurier, and will undoubtedly affect the trajectory of campus activities...possibly for decades. The notes about context seem well-placed (and logical). Please, for the sake of the minds being formed, the stances being taken, and the influence this community will continue to have, always err on the side of open information, promoting evaluation, providing tools to do so, and putting faith (rather than heavily policing) in the Laurier community's commitment to creating and sustaining a healthy, peaceful environment on campus and beyond.

Stephen Jones

I appreciate having an opportunity to comment on the Draft Statement on Freedom of Expression, and I am also aware of the difficulties that crafting such a document must present. I hope my comments and questions are more constructive than otherwise.

*****

GENERAL COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS (Draft Statement, pages 1-4)

Critical assessment, critical thought, critical enquiry, critical thinking—these are among the terms repeatedly noted in the document almost ad nauseam. Here and elsewhere, these terms and others cry out for clear definition, for exemplification, and even for modeling in certain cases. This could make the document bulkier, but it would have benefits.   

Some terms are unfortunately just stale buzzwords and clichés (for example, “excellence”, “leadership”) or just institutional/recruitment boilerplate (as in “prepare graduates to … challenge the world in all its complexity”). They add little if anything to the argument and should be dropped or replaced. The argument itself needs to be clarified and strengthened.

In a similar vein: All things considered, what are “intellectual excellence” and “societal progress”?    

Where does preparing and stimulating ALL Laurier students for active citizenship, which would seem to be a reasonable aim, fit into the mission announced on page 1? Shouldn’t all students in a democratic society learn—be mentored in, be taught—how to converse and debate in public and political forums? Where does instruction and practice in these particular skills fit into the curriculum? Can this learning be left to happen by osmosis?

“other fundamental values and principles”:  What might these be?  Do they put a damper on free expression or not?

“free speech in all its variety” yet “free speech is never without limits”:  Is this a contradiction, perhaps, or at least a paradox? In this context the document refers to Canada’s legal framework. Is there nothing else to consider here but the strictures of the law? Where is, say, the quality of campus life, or the flourishing of the campus and individuals as a community?

“social and pedagogical responsibilities”: Are these fully discharged by simply referring students to Laurier’s “support systems and services”? It seems administratively passive, disengaged, even unserious.

“Laurier community members are encouraged to articulate dissenting views”:  How active is this encouragement? Who actually DOES it? With what urgency as one of the “pedagogical responsibilities” (if that’s what it is)? How coherent it is with, or integrated into, Laurier’s core activities?  

“outside of the classroom … members can actively participate in events, forums …”:  Of course they can, just as they can join a hobby club or craft class. But if this sort of participation is only optional, is it worth much? Doesn’t the university have more responsibility here?

“openness and respect for human dignity:” How are these ideals consciously modeled in all courses? Where might empathy (as conscious cultivation of feeling) or interpersonal understanding fit into the picture? These qualities—and the traditional virtues—are necessary in society, even if they’re not “intellectual” in the restricted sense taken by the document. Where is their place, then?

“personally directed attacks”: Is there a consensus definition of this phrase? How is the robust critical engagement called for by the document to be distinguished from such attacks?   

“prepare graduates to … challenge the world in all its complexity”: And to be challenged by the world as well—and to be prepared to lose some battles? What’s realistic here? What’s a non-boilerplate way to say something meaningful about what Laurier is preparing students for, and where free expression fits into this preparation?

GLOSSARY (Draft Statement, pages 4-7)

In addition to, and preceding, the welter of legal and Charter terms, there should be a glossary of the key terms used on pages 1-4 of this very document. The question-begging terms that are crying out for definition, examples, or models need fuller presentation—and not mere multiple reiterations.

*****

FINAL SHOTS

A university does not have a moral or legal obligation to serve as a community’s sole platform for the free expression of controversial views. A city hall, a public library, or a community centre can all serve that function. What a university uniquely offers is an “examination room,” a rigorous assessment environment, for analyzing such expressions wherever they are presented —for the sake of the common good.

By offering more depth and clarity—more “critical thinking” by the authors, one could say—the Statement may foster real discussion and serve as a reliable policy starter kit, and could avoid being regarded only as institutional window dressing. The university and its students deserve the best Statement that can be created.

________________________

Stephen A. Jones (WLU 1966)
2 May 2018 

Anonymous

This is a massively important line in the sand for Laurier, and will undoubtedly affect the trajectory of campus activities...possibly for decades. The notes about context seem well-placed (and logical). Please, for the sake of the minds being formed, the stances being taken, and the influence this community will continue to have, always err on the side of open information, promoting evaluation, providing tools to do so, and putting faith (rather than heavily policing) in the Laurier community's commitment to creating and sustaining a healthy, peaceful environment on campus and beyond.

Ah Neumann

The draft document seems a bit of a joke, more interested in expressing what should not be expressed than a free and clear expression of the freedom to express anything that people, especially those in academic settings, choose to express, subject to the laws of the land. The draft has censorship build into it with such silly (leftist?) expressions as ‘wrongheadedness’. With such weighed gibberish coming out of a university I was once proud to have graduated from, I can now only shake my head, and can’t think of any reason why it should still be called a university.

Don Tremeer

The fact that this project has been initiated should be all the positive feedback that is necessary.

Abhishek Sarathy

The draft Freedom of Expression is very thorough and I like the where the Task Force has landed on the concept of "inclusive freedom". Two suggestions: 1. Consider making the statement even more plain language and concise, so it's easier for everyone (regardless of knowledge level and language proficiency) to understand and recall. 2. Share with us, your implementation/roll-out strategy. Congrats + good luck!

Dan Jerred

Laurier's Draft Statement on Freedom of Expression is an excellent 'first kick a the can'. I can see that a significant amount of thought and work went into this document. Kudos to the authors. However, feedback from friends plus those comments already posted online reinforce my view that the the statement is long-winded / verbose and full of legal jargon. It needs to be distilled down to a core Freedom of Expression Statement not unlike that of the University of Chicago's. And if a longer version is adopted, I agree with a previous submission that the statement needs to be better organized with section headlines and sub-heads. I would also like to see Laurier's Free Speech Statement enshrined in the university's constitution or by-laws. I also believe some enforceability issues should be spelled out such as: "Violations of the principles of free speech on Laurier's campus or at a university sponsored event will result in one, or a combination of: - sanction - suspension - censure - academic review - termination ... with the results of any repercussions made available to interested parties. If individuals are not held accountable for their actions, the likelihood of repeat behavior will be the result. As well, I believe WLU's commitment to free speech could even represent a branding opportunity in some of the university's primary communications. ie. 'Wilfrid Laurier University ~ A Free Speech Institution'. The more visibility the better with respect to a public declaration that Laurier is committed to the principles of free speech. Lastly, I will echo the comment of an earlier submission and that is, Laurier needs to exhibit and be seen to exhibit that it is embracing free speech. Openness and tolerance are the keys. Applying excessive security fees for certain speakers plus holding professors and organizers responsible for covering said fees is a de facto denial of free speech. Keep up the good work. I'm confident Laurier will come out of this process stonger as a result.

Anonymous

Wilfrid Laurier University appears to be fully committed to upholding the tenants of free speech and hopefully moving forward will guide students towards creative intellectual discourse. This recent free speech on campus issue was an ugly affair, that in my opinion, took some of the luster off of our beloved purple and gold. That being said, I believe this was an important teachable moment that will help restore this proud institution's commitment to the discovery of new ideas and to civilized engagement in intellectual debate. The statement on freedom of expression will hopefully prove an important guideline to furthering the pursuit of education on campus. Let us ensure as alum, faculty, and students that we uphold a commitment to mutual respect and differing opinions.

Anonymous

Thank you for providing an opportunity to voice our feedback on this draft statement. As a Laurier Alumna, I have been following the recent events and controversies that have taken place on campus, which led to the creation of the Task Force of Freedom of Expression. I wish to voice my disappointment in the university administration’s mishandling of these events and their refusal to attempt to provide a safe learning environment for all Laurier students – including those most marginalized by existing oppressive systems of power within Canada, especially trans and gender non-conforming students. Unfortunately, this draft statement is no different and confirms my belief that the Laurier administration is not equipping itself with the tools needed to address the complex identity-politics debates that are happening on campus. I believe that the creation of a Task Force of Freedom of Expression was a reactionary and rushed response at a time that needed self-reflection, thoughtfulness and research. As the WLU Rainbow Centre stated in February, “instead of rushing to define the issue solely as freedom of expression, the university needs to develop a more inclusive and robust model for addressing freedom of expression that is balanced with human rights. This is a tremendous opportunity for our university and we should take time to reflect and develop a more informed strategy for tackling this issue.” I agree with the WLU Rainbow Centre that this is an opportunity for Laurier to create a framework based on equity and inclusivity that will inform policies to create a more just and anti-oppressive campus. Laurier should take notice of other post-secondary institutions’ attempts at this through projects such as positive space movements or initiatives aimed at creating a campus free of discrimination and harassment based on gender and sexual identity. These campus-wide movements should be rooted in academic research and lived experience and the members should be made up of community experts on gender-based violence, transphobia, homophobia, racism, sexism and other forms of systemic oppression. Instead, it seems that Laurier has chosen to prioritize freedom of expression at the expense of vulnerable populations on campus. This draft Statement on Freedom of Expression is concerning to me for a number of reasons: 1. It is alarmingly neutral and open to interpretation and manipulation. Where is the process for discerning the difference between freedom of expression and hate speech? In a world with systemic power imbalances, neutrality has the ability to uphold oppressive systems such as racism, homophobia, sexism and transphobia, further marginalizing vulnerable populations. 2. This draft has completely ignored the context by which it was created. There is no mention of diversity including gender identity or expression. There is no mention of transphobia. Given that this draft statement was created as a response to the Lindsay Shepherd controversy, and given that the controversy involved students facing transphobia in the classroom, it seems inappropriate to have no mention of the group of students that have been most negatively affected by these controversies. By not naming transphobia as a problem, especially with the rise in harassment of trans students on campus, this task force is perpetuating transphobia. 3. Upholding freedom of expression doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of further marginalizing vulnerable populations. However, in our current political climate in which the alt-right is known to weaponize free speech to turn campuses into places of radicalization, it’s vital to make the distinction between free speech and hate speech. The recent events organized by Lindsay Shepherd’s Laurier Society for Open Inquiry are clearly not about open discussion or discourse. White nationalist Faith Goldy was not invited to speak on campus to provide a civil and academic debate, but to create an antagonistic atmosphere in the hopes of inciting backlash from the left. It’s important to understand this new radical political context that is spreading across North American campuses. This draft disregards the current political climate. 4. People’s identity, human rights and safety should not be open for debate on campus or in the classroom. The draft states, “Laurier unequivocally embraces its institutional responsibility to ensure the free and open exchange of ideas in the spirit of intellectual and critical enquiry. Upholding the principles of free expression requires that a range of perspectives and ideas have the opportunity to be articulated, including those that may be deemed difficult, controversial, extreme, or even wrong-headed.” It also states that, “individuals and groups on campus may find it difficult to engage in or respond to free expression, and that some members of the community may feel marginalized, or may be negatively impacted as a result of the ideas expressed.” Again, where is the line drawn? By hosting and opening discussions on whether or not certain groups of people should have certain rights suggests that the university supports the idea that some groups’ human rights are debatable. Essentially, by giving hateful ideas a platform on campus, the university administration is helping to promote an unsafe campus where some students’ basic human rights are actually up for debate. These dehumanizing debates have very real consequences on students’ mental health and physical safety and the university is not adequately addressing these concerns 5. Lastly, the statement claims that, “the university takes seriously its commitment to the well-being of all community members and provides a range of support systems and services.” The WLU Rainbow Centre has reiterated that, “those support systems and services are either unprepared to deal with issues of diversity, or are held back by administrative rank from effectively supporting students. In addition, many of the services offered are led by the very students who are in need of support themselves. This issue has been articulated many times this year, and gone unaddressed, while the university continues to issue statements of support which are not followed up with actual, accessible resources.” The university administration needs to be focusing its resources on providing better supports and services for trans and gender non-conforming students. Laurier does not need a Statement on Freedom of Expression. Laurier needs to focus on practical ways to create a safer campus for all. I hope you consider these thoughts in your next steps. Thank you.

Adam Lewis

I write this comment as someone who has had multiple interactions with WLU. I write as a former student and alumni, a recent contract faculty member and as a continuing member of the Kitchener-Waterloo community. Overall, I must admit that the statement says much, in terms of actual numbers of words, and also very little in terms of content. Primarily the statement seems to wholly side step the context in which is was created, and the events leading to it. This seems like a prudent point given the ongoing attacks, threats etc. to queer, trans and non-binary students on this campus. These events had the potential to add both some much needed context and nuance to the statement, but instead they are wholly omitted. Further, the whole media frenzy that arose out of Lindsay Shepherd's actions as a TA, has evidently factored into such admissions in the statement. The original issue, while perhaps a poor process, was not about freedom of expression but the relationship between professor and TA, and the broader responsibilities of teachers in a classroom environment. The chain of accountability should be pretty clear here. Freedom of expression does not automatically equal academic freedom, and the distinction should and must be more clearly made. This, to me, seems like a first limitation of the statement. If there isn't a commitment and understanding of where we are coming from it is most difficult to figure out where we are going. The culture of transphobia at WLU is part of what needs to be addressed, and addressing freedom of expression without reference to such ongoing issues makes such a a discussion incomplete from the start. Further, the statement itself, and the striking of the committee, are both rushed processes. What are the means with which the university has, and will, actively seek the input by those who are most affected by a wide-ranging definition of permissible speech? General feedback forms are insufficient, and in fact ensure that those most affected are lost in the overall scheme of things. Such student organizations, like the Rainbow Centre, have already born a significant brunt of the implications of this expansive definition of speech and have continually expressed their need for greater resources and a commitment from the admin to tackle these difficult issues on campus. The difficult issue is not freedom of expression, which is already protected as the statement notes through a range of legal frameworks and definitions, but the kind of environment that is fostered when a hands off approach is taken on perspectives that actively and intentionally seek to harm others. Faith Goldy is a clear example here - white nationalism and white supremacy go hand in hand - and ought to be well outside the realm of permissible speech, especially in the context where harm others on both the campus and in the community must be weighed. By using the gloss of freedom of expression to promote white nationalist views, the university is actively sanctioning such perspectives. Deb MacLatchy, by saying that Goldy's views 'do not reflect Laurier’s values as an institution and run counter to the spirit of our community' and still permitting such an event to occur, provides a platform for white nationalist views. Such views have no place within an academic setting (or anywhere for that matter) and should not be up for debate. They should be resigned to the dustbin of history as has been attempted many times before. History, as per my comment above, is a key theme missing here, though the statement does say: 'As history clearly demonstrates, these freedoms establish conditions necessary for critical thought and for diverse voices to be heard without the fear of repression or reprisal.' This may be true and many have fought a large number of 'free speech fights' to permit a much wider range of debate and discussion in this society. But there is also a flip side. History requires that we learn from it. This includes both the intimate context of the recent events at WLU, but also globally, where history shows the potential ramifications of unrestrained speech that promotes hatred and exclusion. The rise of the Nazism and Hitler, and ensuing planetary violence, is perhaps a tired example, but it continues to be pertinent given the current surge of far-right and white nationalist/supremacist views. Faith Goldy is firmly within this rise of ideas, though she is not alone. Promoting such by permitting her an explicit and protected platform, that subordinates the dignity and humanity of some for the benefit of others, runs directly counter to a) the purported values of the university and b) any active consideration of the implications of such speech an lessons from history. Refusing action in this regard flies in the face of the necessity of being better to each other and fostering an environment where this is possible. Free expression/speech is not the be all, end all. It is one set of values amongst many. It is not a trump card to be played when the issues get complicated or heated. And it cannot be a gloss on the expression of ideas that have at their core hatred. Until this context is actively considered, discussed and acted upon statements such as this will mean little to those likely to be most affected by a no-holds-barred approach to freedom of expression. Finally, freedom of expression cannot and will no be 'inclusive' when the very inclusion of some members of the WLU community is contested and maligned. Ideas do not circulate equally in the current society no matter how much we may wish for (or have) procedural or legal forms of equality. Ideas are themselves backed (or not) by power and access - whether this be because of social status, loudness of voice, access to channels of dissemination, access to financial resources or depth of connections. Power exists between people and it affects how ideas are spread and which are given more or less currency. There are many members of the campus community who have been, and will continue to be, affected by such an expansive definition of free speech and a statement that enshrines it without consequence or accountability. This notion of accountability further intersects with power - primarily that of the administration and upper tier decision makers. Such accountability must rest with those who are likely to be harmed, not those whose speech is primed to facilitate or encourage such harm. Participation in the exchange of ideas does not occur in a vacuum where everyone can come and go as they please and be wholly equal with one another. Lives, experiences and histories are varied, complex and contextual. Saying that freedom of expression must be maximal to allow for the participation of all negates the material realities of the society in which we live. The playing field is not the same for all who seek to enter it, and this means that it has, and likely will continue to be, used by some with more access/power against others. And in ways that are not about equity and inclusion but directly counter to such values. What then? This statement refuses to address such underlying and foundational realities, and instead takes a safe theoretical middle ground position that ignores both the history that has come before to lead to this task force and statement, as well as the underlying context in which freedom of expression operates. As I have discussed here, without attention to these fundamental aspects this statement will continue to be a feelgood, 'we did something' box for the administration to check, while continuing to fail to address the fundamental issues around access, support, equity and inclusion that are much broader and much more imperative than an unrestricted and expansive view of expression. The content of expression matters, not just the right to expression itself. With the rise of reactionary, white nationalist/supremacist positions founded on restricting equity and equality (among others) there are more difficult choices to make than allowing all forms of expression. We need to make a stand against ideologies and perspectives that are fundamentally against freedom for all and seek to deny the humanity of others.

Dan Schmitt

Thank you for sending this draft document for review and giving me the opportunity to provide feedback. I sent several emails to Ms. Deborah Maclatchy over the Lindsay Shepherd incident expressing my extreme disappointment and anger over how Ms. Shepherd was treated by WLU staff. I was born and raised in Waterloo, and a Graduate on Scholarship in 1979.

Overall, I recognize that a strong effort was made by the task force, which would be particularly challenging with 13 members; sometimes too many cooks in the kitchen is not a good idea. In this case, I find the document to be well written, and covers many important points. As your task force is made of Academia, I will give you an overall rating of A-. Because this document needs to become an A+, I offer the following suggestions for consideration.

I recommend changes to the text of the document (in red with a number) and explain each point below:

Point#1: Added a new 2nd paragraph, I suggest that as Canadian residents, our Constitution and set of Laws must be the starting point of this document.

#2: Stating “to create spaces” suggests that there are restrictions to where ideas can be tested. I believe this is not the intention of this document and its meaning.

#3: The word “pedagogical” is not a well know and understood word. Its meaning “teaching/intent of instruction/lecture too much to others”, does not capture the task force’s intent. This word should be removed in all locations and replaced with a better word.

#4: The word “robust” should be removed and replaced by “absolute”; this makes a stronger statement

#5: The term “better” speech is a judgement by someone, and not absolute.  Remove the word.

#6: add “absolute”

#7: again, remove and replace “pedagogical”, this word must be a task force member’s “pet word”

#8: add a coma

#9: better defines “opposition”

#10: changes sentence ending and starting

#11: adds further definition

#12: again remove

#13: today’s vernacular among Millennials is “I am offended”. They must know that being offended is not something that can be nor should be removed from experiences in life.

#14: “Intellectual” expression defines expression as a particular type of expression. Who makes this judgement?  Most expression in life is non-intellectual, yet all must be protected.

#15: Remove Pedagogically again

#16:  typo fixed

#17: add a longer-term perspective for the students, after all, going to University is intended to help prepare students for their life.

#18. As an overall comment, I recommend that the length of the document be shortened; I know I have added a paragraph! A 1-page length document would be preferred. I observed that this document includes some repetitive thoughts/ideas/intended meanings. A copy review by an experience senior media editor would help. (e.g. Globe and Mail, National Post).

I trust my suggestions will be reviewed by the full task force, and that all members view my input as helpful and contributory. Make the document an A+!

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