UPEI Censorship: Letters To The Editor - Campuses Must Uphold Free Speech

April 2006

Re: Campus Cartoon Debate Underway, Letter, February 23.

1) President H. Wade MacLauchlan of the university of Prince Edward Island makes egregious mistakes in his letter responding to the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS) and raises doubts about the integrity of his campus. In effect, he admits to not knowing what debate is, or how to defend it. He makes preposterous analogies and parrots silly hyperbole from an unnamed "P.E.I Muslim woman." His use of smear language ("I expect SAFS would do this, would do that...") is dishonest discourse. How would Dr. MacLauchlan respond to a militant who threatened or blackmailed his campus? I suspect he'd rush to cave in.

Walter Bruno, Calgary.

2) Recent actions by administration officials at university of P.E.I. should disturb us all. Their assault on free expression is a disturbing development for any university. President MacLauchlan needs to reconsider his decision, restore the confiscated papers to the Cadre, issue an apology for the administration's actions and reassert publicly his and his university's support for free speech. The intrepid actions of the Cadre should be a model to all of Western media. The actions of its editor and staff stand in contrast to so many newspaper people, who for decades have loudly proclaimed their and others' inherent rights to free speech but who now act in cowardly ways in the face of real threats to those rights.

Sensible and open-minded people reject the blatant lie that the reason many in the media and elsewhere refuse to reprint the Danish cartoons is a matter of "sensitivity." They see that lie for what it is and reject it, because they know that the real reason is fear.

UPEI's administration has the opportunity to make their university an example to other universities in Canada and all of North America. They should restore the Cadre's copies of its paper and, in so doing, help promote both free speech and courage among their fellow Canadians.

Jack Edwards, Toronto.

3) President MacLauchlan responded to the SAFS letter by citing the almost 50 deaths worldwide allegedly related to the circulation of the Danish cartoons - as if this were an expected and defensible consequence of political commentary! Far more offensive cartoons are published in our newspapers daily, some of them with religious themes (e.g., references to the Pope). Arab papers frequently depict Jews and Israelis in horrific and hateful ways. It seems it is only when Muslims are portrayed in unflattering terms that we must be sensitive. Could this be because they are so ready with death threats? The suggestion that it is SAFS that is promoting shouting and disorder is disingenuous indeed.

We in Canada expect people who take offence to express their objections in any number of non-violent ways. Since when, in the politically correct world in which Mr. MacLauchlan seems mired, is killing people deemed a pardonable response? Yet by preventing the circulation of copies of the student newspaper, he tacitly approves violence as a means of influencing the press.

I would respond to the P.E.I. Muslim woman's reaction that the "hurt" is tantamount to her being raped in the street while people watched, by saying, "Get a grip. This is a cartoon!" Giving credence to such an overblown claim is a complete abandonment of common sense. It appears that in his eyes any imagined offence at any utterance, no matter how puerile, automatically trumps freedom of speech.

Mr. MacLauchlan had a great opportunity to de-monstrate that freedom of the press and thus of speech is an important value at UPEI. Instead, he has done a grave disservice to his university and to public discourse generally.

Doreen Kimura, PhD, FRSC, LLD (Hon), Burnaby, B.C.

4) After reading and rereading Dr. MacLauchlan's letter in the National Post, I first thought it was a joke – the outline for a Monty Python script. Then it struck me that he was serious. I can only conclude that Dr. MacLauchlan is a moral coward. God help the students at UPEI under his so-called leadership.

Ralph Awrey, Toronto.

5) Dr. Wade MacLauchlan's placing of blame for the recent destruction of Danish and Norwegian embassies on 12 satirical cartoons is simplistic.

If Dr. MacLauchlan were to read books in the University of Prince Edward Island's libraries instead of burning newspapers in the university's quadrangles, he would see a pattern in the recent destruction.

The bombings in Madrid and London, the riots in France and the sacking of North Europe's embassies follow geographically the humiliation of past Muslim aggression: Spain in 1243, and England, France, Denmark and Norway during the Crusades. If this pattern is followed, then P.E.I. has less to fear than Austria, which defeated Muslim forces in 1529, and Poland, which did the same in 1683.

Universities are a key reason why Christendom prospered while Islam grew only in poverty and ignorance. I hope that in future UPEI will choose the traditions of Europe over those of Arabia.

Or perhaps he should remove Austrian and Polish histories from his libraries' shelves, lest he offend more sensibilities.

Peter Featherstone, Surrey, B.C.