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Wilfrid Laurier University encourages and protects freedom of expression, academic freedom and intellectually challenging discussions that include critical analysis and diversity of thought. At the same time, the university rejects and does not support discourse that involves hate, intolerance and intimidation.

Giving life to these principles is not a simple matter and requires thoughtful discussion.

To that end, Laurier President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy announced in November 2017 the formation of a task force to explore these issues. The task force terms of reference are outlined below. For further information, contact lauriersecretariat@wlu.ca.

Feedback

The task force collected input from the broader community (students, faculty, staff, alumni, partners and other stakeholders) from Feb. 13-23, 2018 to assist in shaping a statement on freedom of expression.

Once a draft statement has been prepared, the task force will again be reaching out to the community for feedback. It is anticipated that a statement will be presented to the Laurier Senate for approval this spring.

Updates

March 29, 2018 Update

The task force spent time collectively working through refinements on its initial draft of the statement on free expression.

The group heard from two external experts who provided viewpoints on the issue of free expression on campus, and interpretations as to what factors should and should not be considered in the context of a university campus.

The task force is updating its draft statement based on feedback at the meeting, and working toward sharing their work and soliciting feedback from the community in early April.

Message to the community from the Task Force on Freedom of Expression

To the Wilfrid Laurier University community,

As you know, last week saw our university community once again dealing with tensions around the issue of free expression on campus and being confronted with the complexities of applying these principles.

As the group tasked with developing an institutional statement on freedom of expression, we want the Laurier community to know that we are taking this role very seriously. We are actively listening to members of our community, consulting with experts, and having rigorous discussion and debate as we work to shape a statement on freedom of expression. We are also optimistic that this will help to effectively guide our commitment to its successful implementation.

In the coming weeks we will be sharing our draft statement with our students, alumni, faculty, staff and the broader community for feedback. We look forward to your responses, and encourage you to participate in this process as we work to develop a statement that we hope will serve as a touchstone for the university as we move forward.

Sincerely,

Task Force on Freedom of Expression

March 22, 2018 Update

The task force elected to spend the majority of its meeting discussing the recent events on campus, and took the opportunity to reflect on the complexities involved in the application of principles of free expression.

While the task force is still working through its draft document, there was consensus that a statement to the Laurier community was appropriate in the wake of recent tensions on campus around the issues of free expression.

The task force also consulted with an internal expert for clarification on some of the legal considerations of their work.

March 15, 2018 Update

Prior to the meeting, the task force’s three working groups submitted their draft suggestions, which were shared among all task force members for review and comment.

At the March 15 meeting the task force heard from two external experts whose insights will be considered as they continue to shape Laurier’s institutional statement on freedom of expression, and consider its operational implications.

March 1, 2018 Update

The Freedom of Expression Task Force's call to the community for input closed on Feb. 23. Over 300 submissions were received. The full set of feedback has been shared with all task force members, and they will consider the ideas, suggestions and concerns expressed by students, alumni, faculty, staff and the broader community as they continue their work.

The task force's three working groups provided updates on their progress. Each working group will submit its draft suggestions to the entire task force for review and evaluation prior to the next task force meeting on March 15.

At the March 1 meeting, the task force heard from two internal experts and one external expert who provided insights that will help inform the group's work.

The task force continues to work toward development of a draft statement by March 29 that will be shared with the broader university community for feedback. If work continues to progress as planned, the task force expects to present a draft statement to Senate in April, with a goal of sharing a finalized statement for Senate's approval in May.

Feb. 15, 2018 Update

At its Feb. 15 meeting, the Task Force on Freedom of Expression established three working groups to consider different elements of Laurier’s preparation of a statement on freedom of expression. Each working group will develop a draft document that will form the basis for the task force’s discussion of what Laurier’s statement will cover.

Further to the initial call for input sent to the Laurier community including students, faculty and staff on Feb. 6, a reminder email was sent out on Feb. 15. The feedback form will continue to accept submissions through Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. The task force will review and consider all feedback submitted via the form, as well as any unsolicited feedback received by the university prior to the call for input.

Rob Gordon, chair of the Task Force on Freedom of Expression, provided updates on the progress to date to Laurier’s Senate on Feb. 13 and to the Board of Governors on Feb. 15.

At upcoming meetings, the task force plans to hear from a variety of internal and external experts who will speak to the topics of legal considerations, academic freedom, and implementation as they relate to freedom of expression at the university.

Feb. 1, 2018 Update

The Terms of Reference for the Freedom of Expression Task Force were unanimously passed at the group’s second meeting, held on Feb. 1, 2018. With the Terms of Reference now established, the task force continues its work to develop an institutional statement on freedom of expression.

As part of its mandate to actively engage the broader Laurier community, the task force is seeking input to help inform its work. A call for feedback was sent to students, faculty and staff on Feb.6, 2018. Individuals will have until Feb. 23, 2018 to complete the online form to voice their ideas.

At the Feb. 1, 2018 meeting the task force agreed that it would solicit input from external experts with knowledge of the legal implications and parameters of Canadian speech laws, scholars whose research examines issues of academic freedom and freedom of expression at universities, and individuals from institutions that have both developed and operationalized statements on free speech. Members of the task force were invited to put forward names of potential experts in these fields. Consultations will occur based on availability.

The committee also reviewed an analysis of existing statements on freedom of expression from other universities, and highlighted the universal elements, which included guiding principles, limitations, and the university’s role. At its next meeting the task force will address these areas of consideration in the context of Wilfrid Laurier University.

January 2018 Update

Wilfrid Laurier University’s recently announced Task Force on Freedom of Expression has begun its deliberations in working towards the development of an institutional statement on freedom of expression. The task force has identified solicitation of input from faculty, staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders as a key priority.

In the coming week, the task force will issue a call for ideas and input from the broader Laurier community to assist with shaping this statement. The task force also plans to consult with a number of external experts on freedom of expression. The task force will publicly share the draft statement and provide opportunities for feedback from the broader Laurier community. Once the task force has received and reviewed the community feedback on the draft statement, their final recommendation will be presented to Senate for approval.

Information about the task force’s terms of reference can be found below.

Terms of Reference

Mandate

The mandate of the task force is to develop a statement on freedom of expression. In this work, the task force will be guided by the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech, by the university’s objects (as outlined in the Wilfrid Laurier University Act), by Laurier’s mission, vision and values, and by relevant legislation.

The task force will actively engage with the broader Laurier community (students, faculty, staff, alumni, partners and other stakeholders), will consult with recognized external experts, and will review exemplary statements developed by other universities.

Report

The task force will produce an open report recommending a statement on freedom of expression. In supporting the development of this statement, the task force will identify various approaches to engage the broader Laurier community in providing meaningful input into the development of the statement and feedback on the drafted statement. The task force will present the report to Senate for final approval.

Timeline

The task force will be populated before the end of December 2017, will begin meeting in January 2018, and is expected to conclude its mandate by the end of March 2018.

Membership (13)

  • Anne-Marie Allison, instructor, Faculty of Science
  • Kanwar Brar, president, WLUSU
  • Douglas Deutschman, dean, Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
  • Natalie Gleba, president, WLUGSA
  • Robert Gordon, vice-president: Research and acting provost (chair)
  • David Haskell, associate professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts
  • Josh Hortaleza, undergraduate student senator
  • David McMurray, vice-president: Students Affairs
  • Kristiina Montero, associate professor, Faculty of Education
  • Marcia Oliver, associate professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts
  • Manuel Riemer, associate professor, Faculty of Science
  • Anne Wilson, professor, Faculty of Science
  • Ali Zaidi, associate professor, Faculty of Arts

Support

  • Rebecca Barnes, associate university secretary: Senate
  • John Fraser, university secretary (acting)

Resources

  • Allison Arnold, director: Employee and Faculty Relations, Human Resources
  • Beth Gurney, associate director: Communications and Public Affairs
  • Paul Jessop, vice-president: Academic (acting)
  • Sheila McKee-Protopapas, executive director, WLUFA
  • Ellen Menage, executive director and COO, WLUGSA
  • Ian Muller, director: Policy, Research and Advocacy, WLUSU
  • Shereen Rowe, general counsel
  • others as required by task force (i.e. Diversity and Equity Office, Office of Research Services, Development and Alumni Relations)

Meeting Protocols

The meetings of the task force shall be open only to members and those resources who are required to support and inform the discussion. All discussion shall take place in camera.

A majority of the members shall constitute a quorum. In the absence of quorum, informal discussion may proceed, but no motions shall be considered.

The task force shall strive for consensus in its decisions, but following discussion, motions may be approved through a two-thirds majority vote of those present.

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