February 21, 2006
SOCIETY FOR ACADEMIC
FREEDOM AND SCHOLARSHIP (SAFS)
MacLauchlan's response to SAFS
Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship misjudges or deliberately
minimalizes the harm arising from the publication of the controversial
cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
SAFS favours publishing the cartoons despite the
fact that there have now been almost 50 deaths world-wide, including
more than 25 on the weekend of February 18. SAFS
would say these events are far removed from UPEI's campus - in effect, that we are free to engage in
reckless free speech in Canada because we have a tolerant, civil society. Perhaps that was the thinking of the Danish
How would SAFS respond to a PEI Muslim woman who
describes the hurt caused by the cartoons to be "... as if I
had been raped out on the street while the people surrounding me
expect SAFS would say that she should develop a thicker skin. UPEI takes seriously these feelings of hurt
and humiliation, as well as those of Muslim students and colleagues at
UPEI and the broader Muslim community on PEI and across Canada.
The SAFS letter fails to credit the UPEI Student
Union with a leadership role in the withdrawal of the Cadre. The Student Union withdrew support for
publication of the cartoons and, as owner of the paper, asked for its
return, acknowledging "we must take into account the overwhelming
reaction that these cartoons have caused worldwide."
SAFS appears to prefer an academic environment where shouting and
disorder are barometers of freedom, I believe we must continually
strive for an engaged and positive learning environment.
Universities must become ever better and richer places of
learning and animated debate. The
discourse on our campuses, including what we model for our students and
future leaders, should include speaking and listening
(which includes respect), courage and curiosity (which includes humility), discretion and
a sense of proportion.
UPEI, there are ongoing animated debates about the cartoons, about
press freedom and responsibility, about the intensely integrated nature
of our global community, and about the quality of the tolerant, dynamic
and robust community that we enjoy and must continue to build.
in the aftermath of the cartoon controversy, Muslim students at UPEI
tell me that they are engaging with other students about their
religious beliefs. The Cadre will
appear this week with a full debate (including an interview with
myself). Students will hold a colloquium
to reflect on issues of expression and diversity raised by the
controversy. Professors and students are
actively talking about all of the issues, in and out of class.
am absolutely convinced that the climate on campus at UPEI and the
quality of our debates are much the richer today than they would be if
the cartoons were still in circulation. Apparently,
SAFS would say that I am overstepping my bounds as president to act to
support this safe and positive learning climate. With
respect, I disagree.
University of Prince Edward Island
Published in the National Post,
February 23, 2006, p.A17 and The
Cadre, February 22, 2006, p1, online.