Speech Wall resurrected

Queen’s Students for Liberty erect wall despite removal last year

The Free Speech Wall was housed in the JDUC on Monday and Tuesday.
The Free Speech Wall was housed in the JDUC on Monday and Tuesday.

Queen’s Students for Liberty (QSL) erected another Free Speech Wall on Monday, despite a severe backlash from the AMS and the University that lead to its removal last April.

Annie Orvis, AMS Student Life Centre (SLC) officer, said that SLC staff weren’t aware that QSL intended to erect another wall when they booked the space for Monday and Tuesday, stating rather that they would just be promoting a Students for Liberty conference, scheduled to be held in Toronto on Nov. 16.

“We didn’t know it was going to happen but we were aware of issues that could come from that group,” Orvis, ArtSci ’13, said.

“We did do our due diligence to find out what they were doing, but as they were an AMS-ratified group we would like to give them space in the building.”

The wall, which stood in the JDUC between Monday afternoon and Tuesday night, didn’t feature any racist or hateful remarks written by students, as seen last year.

Overall, though, the event was mostly positive, Orvis added.

“When I was aware this went up on Monday, we just monitored the situation and we were pleased with how it went and that nothing bad happened,” Orvis said.

Last April, Queen’s Student Affairs and the AMS removed the board twice after racist and other hateful remarks were strewn across it.

QSL subsequently filed a complaint with Kingston Police and intended to pursue legal action against the University for theft of private property and for violating their freedom of speech.

The SLC also introduced a new reservation policy in September that would restrict reservations to groups that could potentially bring discredit upon the AMS or the University, following the results of last year’s Free Speech Wall.

“It wasn’t that we expected them to put up another wall but if we got into another tight situation as well we would want to protect ourselves and the University,” Orvis said.

Tyler Lively, campus coordinator for QSL, said any potential legal action has been dropped since last year.

“We decided to back out from that, [because of] the effort that goes into it and the fact that as a University student … you’re taking on the admin that oversees you as a student, so there’s a bit of a power relationship going on,” Lively, ArtSci ’15, said.

“People are [also] busy with school and [if they] wanted to go to grad school at Queen’s that could be affected.”

Similarly to last year, the event was booked through the Student Life Centre’s online booking system.

After it was erected on Monday, students wrote comments like “the Leafs suck”, “happy Diwali”, “I support freedom of speech” and “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can scar me forever”.

Last year, the wall was run in association with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF). Following its removal, Queen’s received an “F” grade for promoting free speech on campus, according to a report released by the institute last month.

“[The University] is very preemptive in trying to stop a [racist and elitist] reputation from spreading, which is understandable, but I think that freedom of speech comes first,” Lively said.

“The purpose was to promote how valuable [free speech] is and maintain it and fight any encroachment.”

This year, QSL erected the wall as part of its promotion of the Students for Liberty Canadian Regional Conference, set to take place on Nov. 16 at the University of Toronto. They also handed out informational pamphlets about the event on Monday and Tuesday.

The conference will focus on increasing liberty internationally, and will feature Lawrence Reed, president for the Foundation of Economic Education, Tom Palmer, vice-president of the Atlas Network and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, as well as other notable liberty activists across North America.

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