Today the student group Laurier Students for Liberty (Laurier SFL) erected a free speech wall inside the concourse of the Arts “E” Wing at Wilfrid Laurier University. The wall will stand from 10:00AM until 3:00PM. The Laurier Free Speech Wall is part of a campaign to raise awareness about free expression rights in Canada and is sponsored by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
Over the course of the day members of Laurier SFL will invite students, faculty and community members to express their thoughts and opinions on the wall, as an exercise of their free expression rights. They will hand out information about the state of free speech at Canadian public universities, measured in the Justice Centre’s 2013 Campus Freedom Index. The Index is the first report in Canada to measure and rank the state of free speech at Canadian public universities. With 180 grades awarded to 45 campuses, Canada’s universities and student unions receive only six ‘A’ grades. ‘F’ grades were earned 32 times: 13 by universities and 19 by student unions.
In total, 23 campuses earned at least one ‘F’. Put another way, this means that more than half of the 45 universities studied—51%—have engaged in the censorship of student expression on campus.
The 2013 Index reports that free speech at Wilfrid Laurier University is under threat. The University earns a ‘C’ for its written policies and an ‘F’ for its practices with respect to campus speech. The Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union receives a ‘D’ for its policies and a ‘D’ for its practices. In 2012, Wilfrid Laurier University forced a Laurier Students’ Public Interest Group (LSPIRG) to take down posters regarding “Israel Apartheid Week”. The university (or administration) enforced its decision by sending a Special Constable Supervisor to ask the LSPIRG sub-committee, Laurier 4 Palestine, to take down three posters deemed “offensive.” The officer justified WLU’s request on the grounds that the posters “incited hate”. The posters in question had been displayed as part of a gallery event hosted by Laurier 4 Palestine in the Solarium.
The Justice Centre hopes that this free speech wall will remind students, administrators and faculty at Laurier that free speech is a fundamental value in higher education.