In following up on last week’s article on the free speech issue in Ontario Universities I conducted the following interview of the CFS spokesperson Nour Alideeb.
The Quill: What is the background? What prompted the government to believe this new directive to be necessary?
Nour Alideeb: “Protecting free speech is fundamental to academia. It allows for the open exchange of ideas, creative and critical thinking, and is key to our ability to grow intellectually. The concept of free speech is being co-opted to give people who carry extreme views a platform at Ontario colleges and universities. The Ford government is using this policy to protect those who wish to continue to argue for racist, sexist and homophobic ideologies that people have fought for generations to prove wrong. We believe that this policy is in response to a number of high profile incidences over the past 3 years that were successfully shut down at various campuses by students, staff and faculty.”
TQ: Does the CFS have any way of currently monitoring the state of free speech on campuses? If so in what ways is it preferential to monitoring by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario?
NA: “The Federation has no way of tracking and keeping records of such incidents other than when they are high profile and make it to the media or if members reach out to the Federation to report them and seek support.”
TQ: How are the Universities or the CFS-O fighting back against this attack.
NA: “The Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario is supporting students across the province who want to be apart of the consultation sessions between now and January 2019. We are committed to ensuring that students’ voices and concerns are heard and reflected in this policy. In addition, we are working with other campus organizations, faculty and labour unions to challenge this policy. Though we are the largest and oldest organization representing students in post-secondary education, the government has not consulted us on this new policy. We will be contacting the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to share our concerns and opposition to this policy.”
The question laying at the heart of this issue goes as follows. Should all viewpoints be protected with the right to free speech, or do the ones that we perceive to be harmful need to be limited? What are the full ramifications of this decision? Try and find the faults in whatever conclusion you make and attempt to see the matter from the other side. Some topics require education, experience and open-mindedness, so don’t hastily rush to condemn one side or the other. How would one justify totally free speech and what are the reasons to support the limiting of certain ideas?