UPEI Censorship: Letters To The Editor - Free Speech at Risk, Professors Warn

April 2006

Free speech at risk, professors warn

1) As an academic – and one, who as a child, was fortunate enough to have his parents take him from a "fear" to a "free" society – I suggest that the principle of freedom of speech must be treasured over all other principles, especially in universities, whose fun-damental function is the search for truth through the conflict of ideas. It is precisely those opinions that are deeply offensive that any university administrator must protect, unless the aim is to establish the institution that is not a real place of higher learning, but a sort of adult daycare centre where comfort is the criterion of what can be thought and said.

Some individual faculty or students may not understand that this freedom not to be punished for offensive opinions is the hallmark of the university in a free society, but high-level administrators, be they presidents of the university or of the student union, have a special responsibility not to abuse academic freedom, because, just like dictators in fear societies, they have the power to inflict such abuse.

John Furedy, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Sydney, Australia.

2) So Wade MacLauchlan, the president of the University of Prince Edward Island, believes that censoring student newspapers is the best way to prevent potential violence and help his university strive towards "an engaged and positive learning environment."

If there really is the threat of potential violence, it might be slightly more expensive to post the occasional guard outside The Cadre's editorial office than to confiscate student newspapers, but if UPEI can afford to hire campus security guards to ticket illegally parked cars, it can also afford to protect something much more essential to the mandate of the university: free speech.

Andrew Irvine, Professor, University of British Columbia; Director, Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship.

3) I found it difficult to believe that the president of a Canadian university would come out so strongly against freedom of the press – or as Wade MacLauchlan refers to it, "reckless free speech." What I found most offensive, however, was the way he tried to defend himself by using the statement of a P.E.I. Muslim woman that the hurt caused by the cartoons was "as if I had been raped out on the street while the people surrounding me watched."

I'm sure that the woman in question said this in all sincerity even though, according to press reports, she has never seen the cartoons. For someone like Mr. MacLauchlan, however, to endorse the claim that 12 cartoons are equivalent to a public rape is un-conscionable.

Steve Lupker, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario.