Queen’s University tears down Free Speech Wall

Posted on Apr 15, 2013 in Justice Update

2ndWallQueen’s University approved the setting up of a free speech wall on campus from Tuesday April 2 through to Friday, April 5.  However, on the evening of Tuesday April 2, the free speech wall which had been erected by the student group Queen’s Students for Liberty (Queen’s SFL) was shut down by the university’s Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Arig Girgrah.

Campus security officers acted on the instructions of Ms. Girgrah, who told the students that the paper canvas on the wall was being removed due to “offensive content.”  Ms. Girgrah refused to provide any examples of what she considered “offensive”, and refused further explanation.

Queen’s Students for Liberty have recorded a video of the incident, which has been posted on-line and is available at this link.

The free speech wall went back up on Wednesday morning, but on Thursday April 4th Queen’s University seized the free speech wall for a second time.  Campus security confiscated the entire wall (paper, as well as the wood structure) on orders from Queen’s Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Dr. Alan Harrison, the Queen’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) and the Society of Graduate & Professional Students. Queen’s University further cancelled the remainder of the space booking for the student group.

Queen’s University claims that comments written on the wall are “non-compliant” with Queen’s University Code of Conduct, the Queen’s Harassment/Discrimination Policy and Procedure, Residence procedures and the Student Code of Conduct, but no examples are provided.

This censorship behaviour comes from the same university which in 2008 hired “student facilitators” to intervene anywhere on campus if they overheard “homophobic,” sexist, racist, or any “discriminatory” language.  Queen’s University claimed that “they were tasked with spotting ‘spontaneous teaching moments’ concerning issues of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability and social class, and to respond – either actively by posing questions to spur discussion, or more passively through activities like poster campaigns or movies.”

“In the absence of a specific explanation as to which comment violated which university policy, the actions of Queen’s University in shutting down campus speech and confiscating students’ property are illegal,” stated lawyer and JCCF president John Carpay.

“The contract between tuition-paying students and their university gives students the legal right to express their views on campus, whether individually or as a club.  As long as opinions are expressed in a peaceful manner, neither Queen’s university nor the student union has any right to censor speech based on its content, as has been done here” continued Carpay.

The 2012 Campus Freedom Index gave Queen’s University a ‘C’ for its written policies and a ‘D’ for its actions with respect to campus speech.  The student union (Alma Mater Society) received a ‘D’ for its policies and a ‘B’ for its actions.