By Nicole Murphy
The Alberta Government has asked all post secondary schools to align with a freedom of speech policy created out of Chicago.
The Chicago Principles were implemented after a series of students at various schools wanted to stop controversial speakers from presenting.
Part of the Chicago Principles states “Of course the ideas of different members of the university community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive.”
All Alberta schools were given three options on how to align with the policy created out of the United States. They can chose to adopt the Chicago Principles directly, to adopt an alternative version adjusted to fit Canadian law, or each institution could create their own principles to abide by.
NAIT has opted to adjust the Chigaco princples to align with Canadian regulations.
The 8 key principles of the Chicago Statement on Free Speech (as adapted by government for the Canadian context) are:
• Free speech may not violate Canadian law.
• Institutions are places of free and open inquiry in all matters, and all members of each institution’s community are guaranteed the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.
• Community members have the right to criticize and question other views expressed on campus but cannot obstruct or interfere with others’ freedom of speech.
• Institutions should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions they disagree with or find offensive. Mutual respect and civility are valued, but do not constitute sufficient justification to limit free speech.
• The institution may reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the institution.
• The institution may restrict expression that violates the law, falsely defames an individual or constitutes a genuine threat or harassment that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality of interests.
• Debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forward are thought by some, or even most, to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.
• It is for individuals, not the institution, to make those judgements for themselves and to act not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas they oppose.
Principles supplied by NAIT
The policy will be officially in effect by November 15, and displayed on the NAIT website by mid December.
Dr. Susan Fitzsimmons, VP Academic & Provost, says it was an easy transition for NAIT to comply with the Minister of Advanced Education’s request because the institution already supports these ideals.
“I think the responsibility that every post secondary has, not only NAIT, is to make sure there are balanced views presented,” said Fitzsimmons.
“If we have an extreme view being presented on one side it’s always good practice to provide a space for an alternative viewpoint because that’s the point of post secondary. To expose students to lots of ideas and have them develop critical thinking skills.”