Note that the following feedback statements have not been altered, and spelling and grammar errors have not been corrected.
Revise the first sentence to say, "Wilfrid Laurier University’s mission foster of leadership, purpose, and excellence through learning, scholarship, and creativity." The opening (and indeed, the whole statement) absolutely MUST NOT include the phrase “inspiring lives” or anything similar. The preamble should offer a collective statement of institutional commitment, rather than read like an advertisement, crassly worded to echo the rather imprecise slogan overemployed by CPAM on everything from stationery, to business cards, to athletic gear and kitschy insignia bobbles. Echoing WLU’s official mission statement can be good, by offering valuable consistency across the university. Yet that statement nowhere says anything about “inspiring lives.” (See: < https://www.wlu.ca/ about/values-vision-mission/index.html>) Rather, it talks of recognizing “that intellectual inquiry, critical reflection and scholarly integrity are the cornerstones of all universities including our exceptional institution.” Using words that describe actions far more concrete than mere inspiration, the statement says WLU “is devoted to excellence in learning, research, scholarship and creativity. It challenges people to become engaged and aware citizens of an increasingly complex world. It fulfills its mission by advancing knowledge, supporting and enhancing high-quality undergraduate, graduate and professional education, and emphasizing co-curricular development of the whole student.” Note that in the first paragraph of the statement, there is an almost formulaic adherence a what experts in mythology and ritual have called the “rule of threes,” as if things that come in triplets are either stronger or at least more memorable. But the practice also dilutes key concepts. For example, much of the above paragraph, for example, deals with what can be conveniently summarized by one word: justice. Paragraph 2: Revise "Laurier has an institutional responsibility to support an academic environment which protects individuals’ rights to express wide-ranging perspectives, and create space where ideas can be tested..." to, "Laurier has an institutional responsibility to support an academic environment which protects individuals’ rights to express wide-ranging perspectives, and create spaces where community members can test ideas, challenge assumptions, and engage in deep learning and inquiry. The word "respectful" should be deleted from the phrase "respectful interactions," to be potentially replaced by a term such as "constructive" or "educational." Respect is often in the eyes of the beholder, and sometimes, as anyone proficient in satire or cartooning would realize, disrespect can convey ideas and debates more effectively than respect. While I commend the authors of the statement for not making the all-too-common mistake of advocating respect of/for ideas and people, I am not sure that promotion of “respectful interactions” is an objective we want always to promote. Oppressors have too often silenced critics and protesters by requiring them to be respectful. Who is to be the arbiter of whether turning one’s back, taking a knee, wearing pink, standing, failing to clap, or speaking in protest is sufficiently respectful? What we should to is respect the POTENTIAL power or importance of interaction, not the interactions themselves. In other words, imagine that a perpetrator or advocate of genocide were either speaking or being spoken about on campus. Must we RESPECT the interaction? I have witnessed and even participated in enough campus debates and protests over the years to know that compulsory respect can often quash freedom of expression. As any editorial cartoonist knows, sometimes the most effective and productive criticisms are born from dis-respect. A lot of people might not have died or suffered, had more people not so deferentially "respected" Hitler, Stalin, Bonaparte, and countless queens, kings, theologians, and crackpot scholars so much not only to their faces when they were alive, but also when they were under posthumous discussion in classrooms. Change "legislators" to "politicians." Add "other potential authorities," before "and members of the public." The goal of inclusion of "all voices" should be modified. While such absolute participatory inclusivity is a rhetorically nice, it is a physically unrealistic goal. Replace “all voices” with “multiple voices,” “potentially divergent voices,” sometimes irreconcilable,” or some other suitable alternative. Indeed, because the word "diverse" is clearly used and advocated elsewhere in the statement, it is the ideal term to use here, except to the extent that the authors regret repetitiveness. The vagueness of the original first sentence in the following paragraph demands revision, and the subsequent text needs some minor improvements: "CHALLENGING CASES OF FREE EXPRESSION CAN SOMETIMES DEMAND THAT THE UNIVERSITY, ITS SUBUNITS, AND MEMBERS OF ITS COMMUNITY CONSIDER OR UNDERTAKE COMPLEX ACTIONS (NAVIGATE COMPLEX CONSIDERATIONS?). Nonetheless, it is the goal of this statement to provide a clear path by affirming that it is not the role of the university to censor speech. To grant the institution WOULD SET [Grammar: This should be a conditional, not declarative sentence] a dangerous precedent; even if institutional censorship WERE [Grammar: the sentence should use the English subjunctive tense] deemed acceptable in one context, there is no guarantee that these restrictions would be applied fairly or wisely in other contexts, or as power changes hands over time. Rather than restricting speech, Laurier is committed to supporting an open and inclusive environment that protects DIVERSE FREE SPEECH." "free speech in all its variety" --> "diverse free speech" Again, the use of the word ALL is potentially problematic, especially for an institution that actively avoids such inclusivity in much of its daily workings. (The library does not seek to acquire all books, for example. The faculties currently do not cover all fields of study, conspicuously skipping over many that other schools might see as indispensable, such as Visual and Environmental Design, Art History, Asian languages, and more. Moreover, the fact that WLU requires students (and auditors) to pay to be in classes, it clearly does not want to open class discussions to ALL the voices of non-community members. The “safe space” of a classroom, while not completely private or sacred, is crucial to the learning, debate, and development that many of us seek to encourage in the classroom. Therefore, instead of claiming to cover ALL speech, claim to cover a diversity of speech or to offer a sample of the universe of ideas. "sets"--> "would set" (Grammar: This should be a conditional sentence, not declarative one.) "if institutional censorship was" --> "if institutional censorship were" (Grammar: The sentence should use the English subjunctive tense.) The word "tolerating" should be replaced by a better verb. One has a right to free speech, not a right to have one's words be "tolerated," in the sense of being listened to. "that its community engage in better speech" --> “Community members speak and express better”? “Speak and express themselves more effectively”? “Communicate better”? “Communicate more effectively”? Clearly, the statement is trying to say something crucial about communication here that subtly echoes previous phrases, but that idea itself must be communicated more effectively. The phrase "higher learning" is cliché. If the statement invokes the phrase “higher learning,” it should at least express something about “higher learning” that could not just as easily apply to a secondary school or a civic club (which is currently the case with the examples provided in the statement). One easy solution is to remind people of WLU’s status as a UNIVERSITY, supposedly committed to promoting a UNIVERSE of modes of education in a universe of disciplines. Again, while being respectful is an important skill to learn, being EFFECTIVE is often more important than being RESPECTFUL in the context of a classroom debate. Also restatement of Laurier’s mission is out-of-place here, in this paragraph, as is the inconsistency of the different paraphrases of that mission statement itself. The list of legally controllable forms of speech (such as "hate speech") perhaps should also include (protection of) copyrighted expressions and structures. Note that the comments in the paragraph ending with "free and open exchange of ideas" includes a discussion of the potential problems of excessive “civility” that essentially captures my previous problems with the term “respect.” Under "Freedom of Expression": While perhaps legalistically correct (depending on the text of the original charter), the wording here might be more effective if rephrased either as, “freedoms of thought, belief, opinion, and expression” or as “[fundamental freedoms:] freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of opinion, and freedom of expression…” Apologies for any typos, but retyping this a second time was a pain.
II taught at Wilfrid Laurier for 28 years 1968-1993. i appreciate the work undertaken to provide this important statement on freedom of expression. I congratulate those involved in achieving a balance between vigorous defense of principles of free speech with the obligations to defend against misuse of such freedom to slander , libel, harass insult or discriminate.
The "Statement" seems to me to be an exercise in fence-walking -- but, perhaps, that is the best outcome for an exercise such as this. I have concerns re: language like "cases of free expression will have to be navigated on the basis of their complexities" and "freedom of expression is never without limits" as leaving the door open for Administrative heavy-handedness (possibly even censorship) but I know that leaving that door open is likely an unfortunate necessity. Part of my concern comes out of my knowledge that the investigation of charges such as "defamation" or "discrimination" or "harassment" is an incredibly slow process at the University -- leaving the possibility of having someone make these allegations in order to shut down an uncomfortable discussion with the charge, but then a decision on that charge (and its legal validity) not being made until well after the opportunity for the original dialogue has passed. But perhaps there is no way around this. In a similar way, I worry -- as an instructor -- over language like "...although intellectual discomfort may not be used [...] students do have the right to expect a classroom environment that is free of personally directed attacks on their individual character, motives or attributes..." We know all too well that some students are constituted such that all dialogue seems to be understood as "personal", regardless of how an instructor has attempted to contextualize it. Again, I worry about the whistle being blown and given leverage before a professor even has a chance to provide context. This is especially tricky terrain for the large number of Contract Faculty who provide instruction at Laurier. Their lack of job security makes them easy targets for such claims. Having said all of this, I also know that this type of statement should never be crafted in a black and white manner. It must, for better or for worse, leave room for unique circumstances and contexts. The usefulness of the principles espoused in the statement will be made clear only in its, hopefully reasonable and even-handed, application.
A commendable piece of collaborative work. Congratulations.
While there is nothing in this document to object to, I find it too complicated and wordy.
One of our problems as a university is that the community surrounding us does not understand what we are doing and how we are doing it. I fear that nobody in the community will read this document through in its entirety.
What I would have hoped for is a much simpler and shorter statement that frames freedom of expression within the limits of an academic environment.
Maybe like this:
Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights of individual citizens in a democratic society. In the context of a university, it is nevertheless limited in three important ways.
a) violation of Charter rights: as elsewhere, hate speech or other expressions of discrimination against any societal group will not be tolerated.
b) preservation of academic freedom: the academic members of the university are free to choose, include, or limit, learning materials and objectives, within the limits of subsection a), without outside interference or censorship.
c) quality of academic learning: while every member of the academic community is free to individually express their views openly and only restricted by subsection a), the university has a mandate to limit on-campus academic discourse under its name to participants with scholarly expertise and/or meritorious standing in public life.
Dear Task Force Members, I appreciate your efforts, this is a difficult subject that social and political philosophers have been debating for centuries. Here are my comments: Our institution needs to dedicate serious resources to dealing with the impacts of free expression in our current climate. I am writing this 24 hours after an act of mass violence took place in Toronto committed by a person purportedly inspired by a new misogynist movement called the “Incel Rebellion.” Two vague passages in the document that require clarification: 1. The definition of "inclusive freedom" is too vague. - What does the author mean by "civic" and "democratic capacities"? (both are key terms with various definitions and each occupies a central place in the Anglo-American debate between communitarians and liberals). - What are the conditions that would enable students to participate in "free" and "open" exchange? It is here that you are moving away from negative liberty and towards positive liberty, but the document doesn't spell it out yet. These are central issues in the freedom/unfreedom debate. 2. The second last paragraph, starting with "Context is an important...": - There is an irreconcilable tension in this paragraph between the personal and the collective nature of identity: a) collective identities and world views b) personal attacks and individual character, motives, or attributes People working in the social sciences and humanities are well aware that the personal cannot be abstracted from the collective/social – attribute and character are also social. Those are my two (or three) cents, Greg Bird.
I support the draft statement on freedom of expression. In my opinion, the statement goes as far as it can to address matters of equity and inclusion without endorsing censorship and undermining the University’s role in promoting free enquiry and in delivering liberal education. I encourage the task force to not be too swayed by the tenor of the Town Hall meeting on April 23rd. As is natural, I suspect that people who thought that your statement made sense saw no point in attending, thus, leaving the meeting was dominated by people who disagree with your statement (which they have every right to do). (To any supporters of the task force’s statement who are reading this—please make a submission expressing your support. It’s not hard and in the present context your silence suggests you are not supportive of the statement.) I understand that many who criticized the draft statement are hurting. While compassion demands a response, restricting freedom of expression is not the right response. If anything it would create new problems. It is hard for me not to conclude that the opponents of your statement would like you to endorse censorship and regulation of expression they find objectionable. I say this because, while your draft statement would already prohibit “threats, defamation, discrimination, harassment, unjustified and substantial invasion of privacy and confidentiality, and hate speech,” a number of speakers insisted that what you had proposed was insufficient. The only justifications I can imagine for going beyond the listed limitations would undermine the social function of the university. One possible justification is that the University knows the Truth about controversial issues and is invoking its authority to silence incorrect thinking (see Chinese Communist Party, Taliban, etc.). The other is that the University has decided that the avoidance of conflict and hurt feelings and the promotion of harmony are more central to its mission than free enquiry and critical thinking. (In fact, I came away with the impression that some of your critics think that the role of the University is to fill students up with “knowledge,” that a liberal education can be achieved without having one’s settled opinions about the world and one’s place in it disturbed and critically reflected upon.) Further, a policy designed to protect students from being exposed to certain ideas or opinions could not help but have the effect of licensing, encouraging, and regularizing students’ policing of each other’s every utterance. This would be the death, not the promotion, of freedom of expression. What do I suggest? In considering implementation, I encourage the Task Force to stay focused on the distinction between behaviour that can be legally prohibited (which you have already identified) and behaviour that is ethically problematic. Prohibit that which is legally prohibited (the defamation, threats, etc.) and discourage, but not prohibit or censor, that which is ethically problematic—things that one has a right to say but that many would think it would be better if one didn’t. Every effort must be taken, however, to ensure that such discouragement of ethically problematic speech (or encouragement of ethically desirable speech) focuses on the form, not the substance, of speech. Such encouragement must be ideologically neutral or, if that is not possible, then at least even-handed. There will be no surer way to undermine the encouragement of ethically desirable forms of speech than to imply that the only good expression is that which is informed by one particular ideological perspective or understanding of reality. I believe this is something like what intend in your draft statement when you endorse a “classroom environment that is free of personally directed attacks…” in your penultimate paragraph. I encourage you to stick to this position. Finally, I think we always need to keep in mind that most of our students are between 17 and 22 years old. Many are still sorting out what they believe and who they think they are. As hard as it is to believe for those of us who left this stage behind decades ago, many students are only now in the process of coming to understand the effects that what they say and do can have on others. Others still believe that if people don’t share their opinions, it must be that they did not explain their opinions well enough; reasonable disagreement is still a foreign idea in their black-and-white worlds. The BA should provide a space for youth to explore ideas and do some maturing; this requires an environment that endorses and rigorously protects a climate of free inquiry and expression; censorship can only stunt this valuable process.
I support the draft statement on freedom of expression. I believe the statement strongly endorses freedom of expression and rejects censorship. At the same time, it acknowledges that some expression will be hurtful and the university should provide support to those who are hurt. Given the sensitivity of the issue surrounding "freedom of expression," I hope the university can also present a detailed plan (and a statement) on support for the marginalized groups on campus. I believe that it is important to communicate a message of care and mutual respect. Thank you for putting together the statement.
In general, I wholeheartedly endorse the draft statement on Freedom of Expression. By way of background, two specific and recent incidents have convinced me that Wilfrid Laurier University does have a real problem whereby some members of the university of community feel empowered to stifle perfectly legitimate opinions. First, I was distressed by the way student and faculty activists in March 2017 pressured a guest lecturer invited by the Criminology Students’ Association to cancel her speech. Second, I was appalled by the way two members of the faculty dealt with a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Communication Studies who, at worst, strayed beyond the textbook confines of her job description. As such, I was, and remain, convinced that Wilfrid Laurier University had a structural and institutional problem which hindered its capacity to live up to the mandate legislated for it by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to engage in “the pursuit of learning through scholarship, teaching, and research within a spirit of free enquiry and expression.” I would like to thank the members of the task force for undertaking this difficult and agonizing task. This was hard but crucial work. In the main, I do not believe the document should be substantially modified. That said, there are a few constructive suggestions I would like to make. I have also uploaded a Microsoft Word document with the corresponding tracked changes included. First, the document could be improved by making explicit that, in any speech controversy there are three parties: the speaker and their allies, those aggrieved and those who want to hear. The university does this implicitly in several places. For example at lines 97-99, it writes: “It is Laurier’s role to foster an open and inclusive environment where ideas can be shared, discussed and challenged, enabling individuals to explore issues, draw their own conclusions, and develop their intellectual capacities. “ This clearly implies, but does not make explicit, that members of the community who wish to be an audience to controversial speech, can lay claim to hear that speech, even if it neither makes them feel uncomfortable nor if they disagree with it. This is good, but it must be made explicit because at lines 87-88 the task force states: “A key commitment is ensuring that all students have access to full and inclusive participation in their educational pursuits.” However, in this paragraph the real meaning of this commitment seems to be that the perspectives of people who may feel distressed at some speech must be taken into account and have their opportunities for This is a crucial point because too often the rights of passive members of our community are overshadowed in a discussion dominated by active proponents of controversial speech and active opponents who claim victimhood and suffering. Frankly, the vast majority of our community is made up of people who claim membership in neither group but who attend the university to learn. They have rights to hear as much speech as they wish to at and in the university. Moreover, if we have learned anything from Mancur Olson’s The Logic of Collective Action, it is that the rights of passive majorities will quickly be sacrificed in the face of active and organized minorities in the absence of protective measures by a central and legitimated authority. In this case, that is the university administration. It has a moral and, frankly, by virtue of the Wilfrid Laurier University Act, legal -- obligation to advocate for the rights of that passive majority who wish to exercise their right to hear diverse and controversial ideas. Concretely, then, I would recommend adding at line 22, this clause: “our members do not just have rights to express ideas; they have rights to hear them.” Second, I applaud the task force for pointedly including ways forward for people who oppose certain ideas or find them discomforting or disagreeable, but I feel this section can be improved in a substantial way. No one doubts that a cost of free speech is that people may be exposed to ideas they find distasteful and hurtful. However, one of the functions of the university, and this is what I feel should be included in this section, is to model for the broader society how we are to respond to this type of speech. At all levels of society and in all interactions there is distasteful and hurtful speech. We have many different ways of responding to this, we can ignore it, we can counter it, we can protest it, and in some cases, we can respond with violence to try supress it. In my view, part of the responsibilities that accrue to a person on being admitted to and convocating from a program of study at a university is that we learn and model how it is possible to counter offensive, hurtful and distasteful speech as scholars. I get that many minorities may suffer some stress at hearing speech they find offensive and hurtful. I would say that part of the duties that accrue to being a university graduate is to learn how to respond to these in scholarly ways and to model that for our broader society. University degrees confer social status and, on average, financial gains and even some legal rights. While our degrees, sadly do not refer to the responsibilities of university graduates, I don’t think it is implausible to assert them. To my mind, one of the responsibilities is to counter hateful, distasteful speech in a scholarly, not an uncivilized, way. As such, I recommend including this sentence at line 77: “Further, the university’s view is that corresponding to the very real rights and privileges documented on the degrees awarded to graduands, there also exists the duty and responsibility of community members to model for broader society how to respond to distasteful and hurtful speech; namely, as scholars. We therefore…” Third, and lastly, in general, when the document refers to people who might be aggrieved by controversial speech, either encourages to seek support for their well-being or to engage in meaningful counter-speech, dissent or non-violent protests. I would add two things to this paragraph. First, while encouraging students to seek support, I feel the university would do well to draw a distinction between words and violence (physical harm). It was immediately evident from the first reaction from several students at the town hall on the draft of the freedom of expression that there some quarters of our community adhere to the idea that speech is equivalent to violence. This rhetorical point is then repeatedly adduced as a justification for restricting speech. The university is free to make supports available to students who do not like what they hear, but as a scholarly community we have a duty to note that words and violence are not the same thing. Our institution lives, dies and breathes on this distinction. As currently worded, this document subtly suggests that speech and violence, are if not similar, have such similar effects that they should be treated similarly. I would modify the paragraph by inserting at lines 74 “While the university rejects the notion that speech and violence are totally distinct in their nature and effects, it” (see tracked changes in the attached document). In conclusion, I more or less support the draft statement of the Task Force on Free Expression. The members of the task force are to be congratulated for their work and for developing a statement that will guide the university into the future to protect the core legislated mandate of Wilfrid Laurier University. With the possible exception of the constructive proposals made above, I do not believe the statement should be substantially modified.
I support the document as it has been currently written. I believe the document properly emphasizes the primacy of free expression on our campus. I think it is important to remember that free expression of unpopular ideas is not hate speech. Hate speech is against the law and will harm the civility, diversity, inclusion and equity we value on campus. On the other hand, I believe the open discussion and challenging of unpopular ideas in a civil forum is an integral part of intellectual development that should be made available to academic community members. I thank the committee members for their time and effort in undertaking this work on behalf of the Laurier community.
I support the draft statement. It does not impose any penalties on speakers that go above and beyond legal restrictions on speech. This is the correct course. Why should we, as university faculty and students, agree to a lesser degree of freedom than our fellow citizens enjoy in daily civic life? Furthermore, the objections to the draft forces stem from issues of marginalization and diversity promotion. Free expression is the most crucial tool for marginalized communities to organize, protest, promote themselves, and project their message to the broader university community. Without free expression, any administrator could twist words meant to censor scoundrels and point them against student groups or targeted minorities with great detriment. This is the central point of the draft statement, it is not drafted with a time specific, or group specific endpoint. It should be seen as a document that enables students and faculty the most protection for their speech against the whims of administrators who change. I do not believe the statement should be changed, as any changes can become rife for future abuses and unseen consequences. The Task Force should seriously consider why a university campus needs more protection from speech than the civil society at large if they consider abridging the text in favour of safety concerns. The draft statement allows groups who feel criminally threatened to bring forth official charges of harassment or hate speech. They have that power and can exercise it using the current draft statement. They do not have the power to claim censorship based on criteria less than what the criminal law stipulates, nor do I believe they should. I want to thank all the members of the committee, this is a great statement and you should be commended.
1. Paragraph 7. Change last line FROM: “Although the university aspires to civility, concerns about incivility cannot be used as justification for closing off free expression ….” TO: “Although the university aspires to civility, diversity, inclusivity and equity, concerns about these values cannot be used as justification for closing off free expression….” 1.1 This suggestion closes a back door justification for censorship. The Statement articulates an unequivocal commitment to the principle of free expression. It also asserts a commitment to the values of diversity, inclusion and equity. It declares that the principle and values are never in conflict. What if they are in conflict? Then the statement needs to resolve the conflict. 2. In paragraph 4, the statement commits Laurier to the concept of “inclusive freedom”. The first sentence of the paragraph and the first half of the second sentence (up to “inclusive freedom”) should be deleted. 2.1 “Inclusive freedom” is a new and untested concept. The glossary attributes it to a publication in 2017. Since the idea is largely unknown, it is false generalization to claim that the University embraces the concept. Indeed, it sounds like wishful thinking. There are many occasions when free speech and diversity, inclusivity and equity are in conflict. The event that precipitated the Task Force is one example. Instead of promoting inclusive freedom, a new idea, why not embrace the Greek concept of isegoria? In ancient Athens, isegoria described the equal right of citizens to participate in public debate in the democratic assembly. The second half of paragraph 4 advocates that “all voices (should)…have an opportunity…”. That is isegoria. Why not devote the whole paragraph to that idea? 3. Glossary. Add diversity of viewpoint to the list in the definition of “Diversity”. 3.1 At WLU there are few conservatives or libertarians. This problem is occurring across North America. (See Langbert, Quain, & Klein.) The academy has been so focused on attaining diversity by race and gender (which are valuable) that it has created a hostile climate for people who think differently. The North American Academy has–arguably–become politically orthodox. When everyone shares the same politics and prejudices, the disconfirmation process breaks down. 4. Glossary. The definition of “Equity” should be changed. 4.1 The current definition is badly worded and confusing, but seems to suggest equality of outcome. Equality of outcome is antithetical to a University’s operations. A University is a meritocracy—the smartest most hard-working students (faculty) get the highest grades (best publications). Instead, the definition should be changed to equality of opportunity—the idea that all individuals should be treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences. University admission, marks, awards and jobs should go to the most qualified.
I agree with Luisa D'Amato's assessment that the task force "deserves praise for coming up with a draft statement that's strongly in favour of free expression even if ideas "may be deemed difficult, controversial, extreme. or even wrong-headed"". I also agree with her view that now the " real work begins " in ensuring that thousands of faculty, students and staff live by its principles. I am a retired faculty member from the Department of Business and look forward to working with another (active) faculty member in the Department on one way to ensure that the principles are implemented through a new protocol for dealing with sensitive issues in the classroom. Both of us have had extensive experience with these issues and ideally this protocol becomes a best practice for all faculty and teaching assistants who deal with difficult and controversial issues in the classroom.
I support the draft statement in its current form. It addresses fundamentally difficult issues in a balanced and sensible manner and provides reasonable guidance for navigating future issues. Unfortunately, some people on either side of these issues (those who feel their free expression is being limited and those who feel their identities or worldviews are being marginalized or threatened) are likely to feel the draft statement does not do enough to protect them. This may be an unavoidable consequence of trying to balance these competing concerns. However, I believe the draft statement does a good job of striking the right balance between them.
I appreciate the work that has been put into the draft statement and support the current wording. Freedom of expression is complex but increasingly important in the present polarized landscape. This statement represents a balanced and reasonable approach in my view. Thank you.
My feedback is short. The statement is so complicated it is hard to tell what we are trying to say. Was there any way to shorten it? We could simply say: University employees and students operate within the framework of the laws governing all public discourse in Canada. This incudes the rights to speak within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the laws regarding hateful speech. Within that framework, any discourse is permissible at the university in academic or non-academic public settings whether or not specific members of the university agree with the content or stance of the material presented. The booking of rooms and using of university space for any purpose that is within the laws on public discourse and the purposes of the university and its members follows the same procedures for any permissible speech. This would be much clearer and not leave the university making a judgement about topics or speakers that are unacceptable.
The benefits of freedom to express diverse and opposing views is important and critical to discourses aimed at challenging settled notions of the society one lives in. However, I see a difference between discourse that prompts unsettlement and expansion of one's preconceived ideology and discourse that promotes ideology of superiority/inferiority or of 'race' and racism. The contentious subject of racism most certainly needs to be discussed and its origins analyzed; however, promotion of an ideology that has proven historically to harm and even kill racialized individuals, communities and nations has no place in societal institutions, including education. Academia if filled with courses and programs emphasizing anti-oppression and anti-racism in policies and practices. I call into question what the purpose of academia if it is not to 'raise' learners up to make a better and just society for all individuals, communities and nations. As an Indigenous PhD Candidate and part-time lecturer I believe strongly that allowing discourses that promote ideologies that superiorize one people and inferiorize another (i.e. racism) allows for an undercurrent of thought to form in listeners to the possibility that racism and the thought that goes with this is okay. That is scary for me to even conceive. I believe that to label this kind of talk as freedom of expression undermines and fails to consider the immense harm it could do to racialized learners, including Indigenous peoples, who have considered attending this university. Although perhaps new still to some people, the Indian Residential Schools were designed from racist ideology that aimed to destroy the very identities and culture of Indigenous peoples because they were viewed as inferior and in need of salvation and civilization. In this current time when universities have been mandated to take on the 13 principles of Indigenizing their institutions, Freedom of Expression should not be viewed from the lens of just being a space for healthy debates. I believe there needs to be ethical consideration of the actual spiritual, emotional, mental and physical harm that can arise from discourses that promote racist ideologies.
WLUFA Position on the Draft Statement from the Task Force on Freedom of Expression:
On behalf of our members, the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association Executive would like to thank the Task Force for the tremendous amount of work that has gone into the development of this Draft Statement. We know that it is not a simple task to address the diverse concerns a university presents over this type of issue.
It is, however, our position that the Task Force has missed an important opportunity to clarify the distinction between the right to Academic Freedom and the principle of “free expression” – not only for the University community, but also for the broader public sector.
We strongly encourage the Task Force to revisit WLUFA’s initial feedback on this matter, submitted in February of this year.
WLUFA contends that any statement on free expression in a university context cannot be framed without a meaningful discussion of Academic Freedom. WLUFA also contends that to ignore, or to minimize the importance of, Academic Freedom in the drafting of such a statement is to operate in a way that is contrary to the Wilfrid Laurier University Act which clearly states that:
4. The objects of the University are the pursuit of learning through scholarship, teaching and research within a spirit of free enquiry and expression.
And further, that:
5. The University has all powers necessary and incidental to the satisfaction and furtherance of its objects as a University.
The WLUFA Executive strongly encourages the Task Force to revisit this Draft Statement with our position in mind.
Members of the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association Executive
Abstaining due to their membership on the Task Force:
I appreciate the work and effort that the committee has put into the issue of freedom of expression at Laurier. I find the document developed to be a good overarching document on Freedom of Expression. As was said many times, by the committee members and others, at the recent town hall it is only a first step and needs to be supported in a variety of ways to implement the aspirations of the statement. This will I suspect prove difficult and require the active supportive involvement of the whole Laurier community. In following the discussions and incidents on campus that speak to freedom of expression, as well as the comments expressed at the town hall it is evident that there is a parallel issue that deserves attention. The University is a place where there are numerous power differentials and where the diversity of people leads to concerns about marginalization and disrespect. This is a concern for the whole community. The pain expressed in some of the comments was palpable and should be a matter of concern for all of us. These are not burden to be carried just by a subset of the community with particular characteristics. In our current Strategic Academic Plan Diversity is one of the three pillars that groups some of our essential strategies. This pillar has involved looking at Indigenous issues, internationalization and working to attract students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. What I heard at the recent town hall, and at other occasions in various meeting at the university is that certain groups feel that we have not successfully addressed our diversity aspirations, and in fact they (both students and faculty) often feel marginalized and not fully respected. The institution has expressed its support for individuals who feel targeted by hate and disrespected and talked about available supports. These comments are not unlike the expressions about academic freedom of expression made at the beginning of last term. These statements were deemed to need further development and this led to the establishment of your Task Force. It appears to me that the statements about respect and support for individuals who feel disenfranchised are also lacking in substance. We need to understand power differentials and marginalization in an academic setting more completely in a way that goes beyond platitudes to live up to the promise made in the SAP. The University moved quickly to establish your task force and made considerable resources available for the important task of expanding our understanding of academic freedom of expression, it now needs to put the same commitment to building our understanding of legitimate and inappropriate power differentials and how marginalization can be replaced by a culture of respect. Only in this way can the pillar of the SAP be made real for people on the campus who feel they are not given an appropriate voice. Thus a second task for your committee or a second task force is needed to look at the other side of the tensions that have fractured our community over this academic year. I urge the administration to put the same energy and resources into understanding how to equalize access and address marginalization as it did in exploring freedom of expression. Without such a commitment and support the very strong document on freedom of expression will be seen as one-sided and will have I fear very little chance of gaining wide support in our diverse community. Your document and its implementation need to be balanced by a similar document that speaks to the inclusive nature of academic communities.
I think this is a very balanced statement which promotes freedom of speech, while placing limits on it. It has been written with great care, so that no one feels excluded. I would like to applaud the task force for its work. This was not an easy exercise; we know that not everyone will like this statement but this is to be expected and this should be accepted. Now will come harder work: to implement it, to live by it, and to respect the opinion of others even if these differ strongly from one's own ideas. Thank you.
There are many good points in this statement. However, a statement about the *balance* between freedom of speech, and other important values, might be stronger. As it stands, the unacceptability of hate speech is mentioned only in the sixth paragraph (and after saying “protects free speech in all its variety” in the fifth paragraph - *all* its variety?? No!). In addition, the “Of course” that starts that paragraph makes it seem (to me) a bit dismissive of the important point. Adding something about “we aren’t arguing for protecting hate speech” in the first paragraph might make that important point seem less like an afterthought. But the overall statement would still really be a description of only half of what is important here, so “it is the goal of this statement to provide a clear path” feels odd - how can you provide a clear path without covering both sides? (“Speech that they find harmful or distressing” in paragraph 8 also refers to speech that is NOT hate speech, right?)
Firstly, I want to thank members of the task force for their diligent work on this document. I appreciate the challenge that creating a statement on freedom of expression poses. In fact, I think in being tasked with writing such a document you are, in actuality, taking on an even larger challenge: helping Laurier define the identity of a university in contemporary society. After all, many of our policies and even our beliefs and values regarding institutions of higher education were formed before the advent of the web and the opportunity for people to publicly share and discuss views and opinions with relative ease. As the University of Waterloo faculty recently pointed out,i this changes the nature of the conversation on freedom of expression as denying a platform does not prevent access to the content being delivered. The question posed to you, then, is: what, if anything, distinguishes the campus from the rest of society?
There is a growing chorus of voices advocating that the university campus should be treated as distinct from the public sphere and these voices are not limited to one end of the political spectrum, one school of thought, or one view on freedom of expression. Noah Feldman, a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University, has argued thatii “universities, including public universities, would be well-advised to stand on their rights to limit the presence of nonuniversity speakers where possible and to stop their public spaces from becoming classic public forums.” Feldman goes on to say that “the act of creating a campus where academic freedom exists requires the creation of a community that shares certain scholarly norms.” A speaker who does not respect those norms risks undermining the foundation upon which that institution rests. Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU, echoes these sentiments,iii asserting that “The university should strive to remain a place apart from the rest of society.” He goes on say that Feldman’s remarks do “a great job of articulating those differences [between universities and society in general] and offering guidance to university presidents.”
Indeed, there is a mounting consensus that universities should—and perhaps even have an obligation to—recognize the university as distinct from public forums, in particular when it comes to speakers who seek to, willfully or not, undermine scholarly norms, such as our commitment to evidence and facts, the value of rational debate, and the need to refrain from making baseless claims that foment hate or prejudice. As currently written, the statement on freedom of expression does not draw this distinction nor does it acknowledge the shifting role of a university campus in light of the access the web provides to various ideas, opinions, beliefs, and values. It would be odd, for instance, to argue that declining to host a prospective speaker with eighty-five thousand followers is tantamount to silencing that individual. It would be equally curious to ignore the implicit merit that would be conferred upon that speaker should they attain a platform at Laurier. Finally, it would be especially peculiar to hold that an individual who believes that Syrians fleeing untold hardships should be executed en masseiv warrants such merit or that such an individual, set to speak on non-European immigration, is liable to uphold scholarly norms and the institutional values espoused in the statement.
For these reasons, I would like to suggest the following amendment to the document via the inclusion of this passage or one that captures its spirit:
Laurier recognizes that this statement is predicated on all parties acting in good faith. However, there are instances where individuals or organizations may seek a platform at Laurier with the intention to disseminate material that lacks credibility and promotes hate or prejudice. Given that such instances would contravene the institution’s commitment to fostering a diverse and equitable learning and working environment, Laurier reserves the right to uphold that commitment by declining to accommodate such individuals or organizations.
Please note the phrasing here. The document already implies good faith on the part of all parties but it is important to openly recognize this as bad faith actors may seek accommodation on campuses specifically to attain the merit conferred upon the content of their speech by speaking at a reputable academic institution. Furthermore, as phrased, there is no need to define bad faith or what constitutes it; simply by stating that the purview of the statement is for good faith participants is sufficient. Questions of credibility can be addressed from various perspectives, such as the individual’s professional integrity (i.e. does their profession confer upon them particular standards and responsibilities to which they are beholden), their use of reputable, ideally peer-reviewed sources, their past remarks on a topic insofar as they pertain to topic to be presented on, and so forth.
The need to recognize speech that promotes hate or prejudice is equally important. The legal definition of hate speech is narrow and it fails to capture those who—through euphemisms, dog whistles, and other coded phrases—would undermine our commitment to an equitable learning environment as per the ‘Poisoned Environment’ section of our ‘Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination.’v This statement recognizes that Laurier is a steward of the learning and working environment and they have a legal obligation to prevent that environment from being ‘poisoned’ by discriminatory material. Importantly, this statement acknowledges that “A person need not be the target of the behaviours to feel the effects of certain harassing or discriminatory behaviours at their place of work or study” (i.e. one need not attend a talk that espouses race-based discrimination in order to be harmed by the material as the environment itself could reasonably be seen as discriminatory towards that individual by permitting its dissemination in that place of learning or working). As the Ontario Human Rights Commission notes,vi “Unlike harassment which requires repeated behaviour, a poisoned environment can be created by a single incident, if serious or substantial enough. It is the responsibility of every employer, landlord, and service provider to take steps to ensure that its environment is free from harassment or inappropriate race-related comments or conduct, even if no one objects” [emphasis added]. The current statement on freedom of expression does not recognize this as it has no mechanism for declining to host a speaker who, in one incident (such as a white supremacist rally) could ‘poison’ the learning environment without running afoul of hate speech laws. Although such a possibility may be seen as exceedingly rare, it nevertheless behooves us to account for it.
I respectfully request the task force to consider the above amendment and the rationale provided for it. Once again, thank you for your diligence, time, and energy on crafting this statement that will not only help guide Laurier forward into the 21st century but hopefully serve as guidance for others as well, as any institution that seeks to lead should aspire to do.
Steve Wilcox, Assistant Professor, Game Design and Development, Wilfrid Laurier University
The hard work of the committee on Freedom of Expression is obvious in the thoughtful and balanced approach. While I believe it may be difficult to translate into practice, I do think this statement helps establish a stronger framework going forward.
I am somewhat concerned that the Statement does not clearly recognize that in Canada, there is a legal framework in place to directly address hate speech with a broader context of recognizing the value of freedom of expression. I am not sure that the University has made explicit its duties with respect to speech that might be considered hateful, or likely, in the words of the Ontario Human Rights Code, “to incite the infringement of a right” to non-discriminatory services (OHRC, s.13). While Ontario does not have the explicit ban on hate speech that is contained in the human rights legislation of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec, s. 13 clearly recognizes the obligation of service providers (certainly, including publicly funded universities) to ensure that people are not subject to discrimination.
As you are no doubt aware, the Human Rights Code has the purpose of “recognizing the dignity and worth of every person, and creating a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person so that each person feels a part of the community and able to contribute fully to the development and well-being of the community and the Province.” (Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19)
In section 1, the Code specifically prohibits discrimination in services on the basis of “race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.” Organizations subject to the Code, such as universities, have a positive obligation ensure that they are providing services without discrimination. For the purposes of greater clarity, in s. 13, the Code further makes clear that discrimination can be effected through communicative acts, and publications – although it is subject to the constitutional right to free expression:
Announced Intention to Discriminate
13 (1) A right under Part I is infringed by a person who publishes or displays before the public or causes the publication or display before the public of any notice, sign, symbol, emblem, or other similar representation that indicates the intention of the person to infringe a right under Part I or that is intended by the person to incite the infringement of a right under Part I. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 13 (1).
(2) Subsection (1) shall not interfere with freedom of expression of opinion. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 13 (2).
The Supreme Court of Canada has given extensive guidance on the type of balancing it considers in the context of hate speech. “Hate propoaganda” has been criminally prohibited, and the freedom of speech defense rejected in Canadian law, since Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Taylor  3 S.C.R. 892. There, the Supreme Court held that criminalizing hate propaganda (any expression that is "intended or likely to circulate extreme feelings of opprobrium and enmity against a racial or religious group" at 902) was an acceptable limit on freedom of speech.
I hope that the speech can make it clearer that the university will not only exercise its responsibilities to promote academic debate, and vigorous questioning on campus – but also exercise its responsibilities to ensure an environment free of communication likely to incite discrimination against marginalized groups.
Assistant Professor, Law and Society
At the Senate meeting that discussed the draft statement, it was reported that it was similar in length to the statement of the University of Cambridge (written in 2016). The Cambridge statement, found at http://www.cam.ac.uk/system/files/university_statement_on_freedom_of_speech.pdf, is actually 737 words in length compared to 1318 words in our proposed statement. I exclude the glossary from our statement. The Cambridge statement also has a number of specific references to terrorism statutes that may or may not be as relevant to Laurier. In my opinion, the Cambridge statement is much superior. It is clearly directed to the issue of freedom of expression and is not distracted by other related issues. It is a counter-example to the proposed draft. Approved by the University Council on 13 June 2016 The University of Cambridge, as a world-leading research and teaching institution, is fully committed to the principle, and to the promotion, of freedom of speech and expression. The University’s core values are ‘freedom of thought and expression’ and ‘freedom from discrimination’. The University fosters an environment in which all of its staff and students can participate fully in University life, and feel able to question and test received wisdom, and to express new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without fear of disrespect or discrimination. The University will ensure that staff have such freedom within the law and within the University’s own provisions without placing themselves at risk of losing their job or any University privileges they have. The University expects all staff and students to receive and respond to intellectual and ideological challenges in a constructive and peaceable way. The University instils the capacity for critical engagement in its students, allowing them to engage with a wide range of viewpoints and to listen, dissect, analyse, reason, adjudicate, and respond to those viewpoints. These commitments are reinforced by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and by domestic legislation. Universities in England and Wales have a statutory duty under section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986 to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that lawful freedom of speech and expression is secured for all staff and students and for visiting speakers. As part of this statutory duty the University is also required to issue and keep up to date a code of practice to be followed by all members, students, and employees of the University for the organization of meetings and other events whether indoors or outdoors on University premises, including on CUSU and GU premises. The University accordingly has implemented the Code of Practice on Meetings and Public Gatherings on University Premises (‘the Code’). The Code also sets out the conduct required of all individuals involved in such meetings and events. This Code is set out below. In addition, section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (‘the Act’)1 places a duty on certain bodies, including Higher Education Institutions, in the exercise of their functions to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. This necessitates the establishment of protocols and procedures by which to assess the risks associated with events that are University affiliated, funded, or branded. The Act also requires those bodies to have particular regard to statutory duties on the University with regard to academic freedom and freedom of expression. An active speaker programme is fundamental to the academic and other activities of the University and staff and students are encouraged to invite a wide range of speakers and to engage critically but courteously with them. Debate, discussion, and critical enquiry are, in themselves, powerful tools in preventing people from being drawn into terrorism. The University has drawn up this Statement with these principles in mind. This Statement and the Code provide the only mechanism by which the University can cancel or impose conditions on University meetings or events where this action is deemed necessary as a result of the event’s subject matter and/or speaker(s). This is to ensure that the use of University premises is not inappropriately denied to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with their beliefs or views or the policy or objectives of a body (with the exception of proscribed organizations) of which they are a member. External speakers who are known to be members of proscribed organizations, or who are likely to encourage support for proscribed (or outlawed) organizations under UK law,2 should not be invited to speak at University events. The University will not unreasonably refuse to allow events to be held on its premises. The lawful expression of controversial or unpopular views will not in itself constitute reasonable grounds for withholding permission for an event. Reasonable grounds for refusal would include, but are not limited to, the fact that the event is likely to: • include the expression of views that risk drawing people into terrorism or are the views of proscribed groups; • incite others to commit a violent or illegal act; • pose a genuine risk to the welfare, health, or safety of members of the University or the general public, or give rise to a breach of the peace
Thank you to the task force for their work on this. I think it is a good statement as is; I’m sure there are ways to improve it, beyond my small comments, which others will suggest. Suggestions: • There is a contradiction in that “free expression” would appear to be just that, free. To set any limits upon it means that it is not completely free, and thus is censored. While I agree with what the statement says and what I believe it means, the term “free expression” seems a misnomer. • The section on intellectual discomfort is not sufficiently explicated. If a student in the class is the only representative of a marginalized group, certain types of statements or discussions will cause the student to feel personally attacked and silenced, unless the professor is unusually adept at navigating these types of situations. If everyone in the class except the one student holds the “dominant” viewpoint, this student must choose to either be silent or to take the role of speaking for their entire subgroup and voice the unpopular viewpoint, for which that student may be effectively “shouted down.” This may occur inside the classroom or after the class is finished. I don’t feel that the section provides much protection for this student. I think that the statement tries to address the situation in the previous paragraph of the statement, but the choices seem to be “be uncomfortable” or “speak out” or “go to a support service”. The student may not feel safe doing any one of those. Perhaps this type of information would exist in the implementation aspect of this statement, but it seems inconsistent to put all of the burden on the marginalized student. At worst, this reinforces the stereotypes; at best it opens a conversation which may be more, or less, peaceful and inclusive. Where is the faculty member’s responsibility? I feel that some of this belongs in the statement itself, because there will be many people who do not consult the implementation plan. • Clean up the links—e.g., there are links from “freedom of thought” and “association” but these terms are never defined. Some links (e.g., inclusion) do not lead directly to the section where they are discussed.
I spoke at Senate this morning/noon and repeat here that the missing piece for me was addressed by the task force: the document should be a seed document that grows with time, has the capacity to be revisited with future needs, adjusted to meet new challenges, and evolve to reflect each generation of community's sensibilities and sensitivities amidst a changing legal reality that future Canadian life will most certainly express. I am satisfied that this document is so designed to a) recognize it is a period piece emerging from 2018 concerns and challenges; b) it seeks to express as openly and yet directly principles that will help WLU effectively deal with present issues; and c) it remains an organic document, a living testament as it were, that will necessarily change with time to be reviewed and renewed and adjusted to remain as relevant and helpful as possible. Foucault's "L'auteur est mort" wherein we now need to return to Foucault's own writings and re-read them now that Foucault, l'auteur lui-meme, is dead. With all due respect (and appreciation, the authors of this document will (hopefully) pass long before the seeds of this document become redundant or ineffectual.
Thanks to the committee for your hard work on this. I suggest a paragraph at the beginning of the document summarizing the main ideas. It may be clearer to separate values from aspirations, to the extent possible. I suggest you add the articles on academic freedom from the faculty collective agreements in as an appendix, so they are easily accessible.
I agree with the draft statement and think that it reflects a positive approach to free expression on campus. I also agree with others that the Task Force might find a way to shorten it to make it more accessible. That said, I think it represents some thoughtful work. My only other comment relates to the responsibility of the university to foster debate and discussion. Some of the university's recent problems relate to the poor quality of the so-called "controversial speakers" that have been invited. In many cases they appear to have been asked to come to Laurier merely to shock everyone rather than make a meaningful contribution. I am not suggesting that they do not have a right to come to Laurier (under the terms outlined in the statement). What I am wondering about is the university's responsibility to foster fora for real dialogue and discussion involving different perspectives (even unpopular ones). Should the statement acknowledge this as a core mandate for the university?
I feel the statement reflects what I believe to be the aspirations and beliefs of the Laurier and larger communities. I am impressed by its scope and commend the task force for its work, which I am sure was challenging in these turbulent times. I agree with Thomas Hueglin, however, that it would be helpful for the statement to be less verbose and provide more clarity. I recognize that Laurier’s statement cannot go beyond the confines of the law; nonetheless it remains for us to be vigilant when the level of discourse turns toward the virulent or when we veer into hate speech under the guise of “freedom”.
Thank you to the committee for your hard work on this document. While I appreciate the difficulty of articulating our institutional commitment to values that are in tension and I understand the potential of the inclusive freedom model for managing this tension, I am troubled by some of the rhetoric used to frame the issue. This statement employs rhetoric that skews the true nature of the tensions between freedom of expression, on the one hand, and inclusivity and diversity, on the other. The document frames the central tension to be navigated through a commitment to inclusive freedom as a tension between the value of protecting expression, including speech ‘that may be deemed difficult, controversial, extreme, or even wrong-headed (lines 18-19) and the recognition ‘that on occasion 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’ (lines 72-74). Both sides of the tension are cast in terms that fail to identify and therefore fail to engage the central problem. While one may not be entirely wrong in classifying the forms of expression many of us are worried about as ‘difficult, controversial, extreme, or wrong-headed’, this generic rhetoric certainly obscures the fact that what many of us are specifically worried about is racist, transphobic, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc., speech. Speech that may fall short of the legal definition of hate speech, but that promotes and often performs the further marginalization of those who are already marginalized. On the other side of the tension, characterizing the effects of some forms of expression as on occasion making it difficult to respond to or engage in free expression, having a negative impact, and causing some members of the community to feel marginalized, is problematic. If a model of inclusive freedom is possibly to work well, then minimizing and misrepresenting the nature of the harm and the burden placed on marginalized persons is unacceptable. First, suggesting that the effects of certain forms of expression on occasion make expression difficult for some, ignores the pervasive and systemic ways in which the voices of the marginalized are excluded. Second, the problem is not that some people may feel marginalized. The problem of concern is with the ways in which those who are already marginalized are further marginalized; this is an issue of reinforcing and exacerbating people’s subordinate position in unequal power structures. It is not primarily a matter of how people feel, but instead a problem of how they are unjustly situated. The specific rhetoric used is especially problematic because it misnames the effects of certain types of speech and not only obscures the lived reality of members of marginalized groups, but also renders invisible the burden these community members carry in upholding a commitment to freedom of expression. There is a significant difference between claiming that one must deal with ‘difficult, controversial, extreme, or wrong-headed’ forms of expression and claiming that one must deal with racist, or transphobic, or sexist, forms of expression. At the very least, since members of marginalized groups will pay the cost for this kind of expression, that cost should be named and acknowledged. One of the sources of frustration for members of marginalized groups around this issue is the systematic refusal accurately to name the kinds of expression involved. While it may sound more palatable to use vague words like ‘wrong-headed’ or ‘difficult’, rather than accurate words like ‘racist’ or ‘transphobic’, this lack of accuracy is counter-productive from within the inclusive freedom model. First, it performs the renaming of the experiences of marginalized persons in ways that are detrimental to marginalized persons but useful for maintaining the situated ignorance of those who benefit from this language. Second, on the inclusive freedom model, the cost to marginalized groups and individuals is meant to be (at least partially) alleviated through other resources and supports. This strategy cannot expect to be even minimally successful if we are not accurate about what the costs are and what exactly needs to be alleviated. I urge the committee to rethink and revise the rhetoric used to describe the difficulties that are meant to be navigated through the inclusive freedom model. There is a politics to how we frame the tension and I think that the political commitments expressed through the language used in this document are counter-productive from within the inclusive freedom model. The current framing employs rhetoric conducive to the belief that we care about diversity and inclusivity, but makes us ill-equipped to enact that care in any meaningful way.
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