We can’t wait for an unsafe situation to unfold before we attempt to prevent one.
McMaster is in the process of creating a set of guidelines towards protest and free speech on their campus. This guideline seeks to provide a clear set of rules for acceptable ways for students to express dissent with invited speakers and campus events.
Currently, Queen’s students are put in a precarious situation when they decide to protest campus events. There’s no specific set of rules that explain what students are and aren’t allowed to do while protesting. As a result, they have no guarantee of protection when they participate in demonstrations on campus.
If schools continue to bring divisive figures to speak, they need to provide an avenue for their students to safely and effectively protest that event. Without a set of rules for acceptable protests on campus, any form of activism is theoretically open to punishment, or vulnerable to devolving into unsafe situations.
When universities give a set of guidelines for student conduct concerning protests, they promote safer, more organized instances of activism and therefore safer campuses. The solution to polarized politics on campus won’t be realized if administrations completely punish or limit forms of protest.
But a simple step in the right direction could be to designate a pre-approved way to protest that promotes safety. Having safety guidelines promotes effective protest organization and having them accessible and visible to the student body lets every student know they will be supported by their school in the event that they decide to protest.
At Queen’s, there is no specific set of rules outlining what students can and can’t do at a protest. The closest we currently have is the non-academic misconduct code, which gives no specific examples of what an appropriate protest would look like, or what an unacceptable one would be.
On Monday March 5, Queen’s is hosting an event featuring controversial University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson. The event has left students massively divided, with large numbers of students planning to attend as well as protest .
Carrying on as usual isn’t going to cut it for Queen’s much longer. McMaster has set the right precedent in creating these guidelines. Being aware of an increasingly polarized political climate is absolutely essential to protecting students on a modern university campus. If you aren’t going to shut divisive events down, you need to at least be able to protect both camps of students.
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