Free speech is officially mandated on Ontario campuses this year, but just what does that mean?
From students to teaches to workers, there’s a lot of people on campus and everyone’s got something to say. Of course, free speech isn’t really concerned with you saying hello to people in class as it is with student groups and public speakers, specifically ones that lean ideologically in one direction.
The Ontario government decided that there has to be regulations on all of this to foster discussion. Of course, due to the current makeup of the Ontario government, this feels less like this has to do with encouraging students to be exposed to ideas they disagree with and more to do with aiding controversial speakers and promoting extreme right-wing values.
What’s going on?
In the wake of recent high-profile protests as the result of controversial speakers on different campuses, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has instituted an Ontario-wide policy. The policy requires every publicly-assisted university and college to develop a free speech policy by January 1, 2019.
These policies can range from school to school but must meet a certain standard for the government to approve them. The Ministry will monitor compliance and restrict future funding should schools not adhere to their own policies.
TL;DR: Schools have to allow free speech or face budget cuts.
Will this actually change anything?
Critics to this whole ordeal have, ironically, spoken out. Many see it not so much as a true belief in the idea of free speech, but as a political maneuver. Journalist Chris Selley argued the whole thing was just harmless symbolism to placate Ontario premier Doug Ford and he’s not the only one who thinks that.
Students still can (and will) protest controversial events and speakers but it sure feels like this decree is more about encouraging extreme speakers to say what they want and discouraging others from speaking out against them.
Is free speech really on fire on campus? Or is this whole thing designed to allow inflammatory speakers a safe space, free from persecution?
We’ll see where this goes and if these policies actually cause any real change on your campus. After all, is some provincial decree really gonna stop you from staying silent or speaking up?
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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.