OCTOBER 28, 2015
2015 Campus Freedom Index:
universities earn 41 F’s, only 8 A’s for campus free speech
CALGARY/MONTREAL: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) today released the 2015 Campus Freedom Index, a report measuring the state of free speech at 55 Canadian public universities.
Using a five-tier letter scale—A, B, C, D and F—the Campus Freedom Index grades universities and student unions on their stated policies (what they say) and their practices (what they do).
The annual Campus Freedom Index uses specific, measurable and replicable criteria to assess the free speech climate on Canadian university campuses, giving university administrators and student union executives clear standards they can adopt to better protect free speech rights for students. Each university receives four letter grades, one for each of university policies, university practices, student union policies, and student union practices.
With 220 grades awarded to 55 campuses, Canada’s universities and student unions in 2015 have received only eight ‘A’ grades—only three more ‘A’ grades than were awarded in 2014. Conversely ‘F’ grades were earned 41 times: 15 times by universities, and 26 times by student unions.
Michael Kennedy and John Carpay are available in Montreal and Calgary respectively for media inquiries. For more information:
- Michael Kennedy, co-author: email@example.com or 902-322-4828
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Significant changes in 2014-2015: The Good
Carleton University Students’ Association – from B to A
The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) has been improving its position in the Index steadily since 2012, when it still had speech-restricting clauses in its Discrimination on Campus Policy, which had been used to deny ratification to student groups with pro-life views. CUSA’s deliberate repudiation of this policy resulted in CUSA getting a ‘B’ for policies and a ‘B’ for practices in the 2014 Campus Freedom Index. This year, CUSA passed a new Support for Freedom of Expression Policy, based on JCCF’s template Resolution in Support of Free Expression. This move to further support free speech strengthens CUSA’s position as one of the best student unions in Canada, and combined with other past practices of defending free speech for its students, earns CUSA an ‘A’ in the practices category.
Memorial University – from C to A
Memorial University defended free expression on campus in September of 2014, against pressure from some students and faculty to condemn a lecture series on post-abortion mental health services that was sponsored by the University’s Campus Chaplaincy and the Counselling Centre.
Mount Royal University – from F to C
Mount Royal University (MRU) moved from ‘F’ to ‘C’ in 2015 because of its decision to settle a lawsuit and apologize for the conduct of its security guards, who in 2013 detained, hand-cuffed and assaulted an individual who was distributing flyers on campus because a security guard found them offensive. JCCF represented Nicholas Macleod in his legal action, which was settled out-of-court with an apology from MRU’s president.
University of New Brunswick – from D to A
In 2015, the University of New Brunswick defended the academic freedom of one of its faculty members, who faced complaints for comments made at eurocanadian.ca, a website he runs for his organization, the Council of European Canadians, which is independent of his academic work. This action earns UNB an ‘A’ grade in the practices section.
University of Toronto – from F to B
The University of Toronto earns a ‘B’ grade in the “practices” category for its defence of free expression in relation to a lecture titled “WWI 100th Anniversary: Human Suffering in Eastern Anatolia”. The University also ensured there was an adequate security presence at the lecture, which took place in February 2015 amidst protest and demands to shut the event down from some students and faculty. The University did not qualify for an ‘A’ grade because it has yet to repudiate its past practice of denying common space to pro-life clubs due to the graphic nature of their displays.
Significant changes in 2014-2015: The Bad
Concordia University – from D to F
Concordia University drops to an ‘F’ for its failures to defend the free expression and academic freedom of students and lecturers in 2015. Specifically, the University failed to condemn and facilitated the removal of several texts from the Reflections Library operated by the Muslim Students Association, after a television station reported that some of the writings in the Library were by authors who had made controversial statements in the past. The University also failed to defend against the cancellation of a lecture near campus by Canadian MP Marc Garneau due to fear of violent protest, thereby encouraging more of these threats in future.
University of Alberta – from D to F
The University of Alberta condoned the bullying, censorship and intimidation of one of its own student groups throughout the 2014-15 school year. As explained in a filed affidavit sworn by Amberlee Nicol, a student at the University of Alberta, throughout the 2014-15 school year, the University condoned numerous violations of the Code of Student Behaviour, including the vandalism and destruction of U Alberta Pro-Life’s posters; incitement to inappropriate and criminal behaviour; obstruction and disruption of a University-related activity, namely a peaceful, educational display on campus.
University of Lethbridge – from B to F
The University of Lethbridge imposed restrictions on the placement of a display by a pro-life student group due to complaints from students that they were offended by the graphic images on display in the 2014-2015 year. The University also failed to prevent protesters from obstructing the same pro-life club’s display in the 2013-2014 year.