Principal’s Office release first draft of free speech policy

Policy up for public feedback until Nov. 23 

Woolf will address draft free speech policy at Senate next Tuesday.
Photo: 

As promised, Principal Woolf’s first draft of the incoming free speech policy draws on existing University guidelines.

The Principal’s Office released its first draft of the incoming Free Speech Policy on Nov. 14 to receive community feedback before the policy is finalized for the January deadline. Responses will be accepted until Nov. 23.

As required by the Ford government, the first draft provides a definition of free speech as “the right of an individual, a group, or a community to communicate their opinions and ideas without interference, censorship, or sanction.”

The policy’s definition of free speech also extends to the right to engage in peaceful protest and states students, faculty, staff and visitors to Queen’s “remain free to exercise free speech while on campus.” 

The scope of the policy covers campus and all those who “lawfully” use campus, according to the draft. 

As Woolf said in an October senate meeting, the policy builds on existing policies that protect free speech on campus.

The policy also protects “lawful and peaceful” public protests and demonstrations, as well as an environment where members of the university community can safely live, study, teach and work “free from harassment.”

The Ford government laid out a number of standards universities must meet when constructing their free speech policies, including a requirement to make student groups compliant with the new policies or face limited financial support. 

In response to this requirement, the first draft of the policy states “student groups are encouraged to consider and adopt policies that align with this free speech on campus policy in accordance with their own governance frameworks.”

While the draft doesn’t impose disciplinary conditions for loss of finances or recognition on student groups, it does outline procedures for those who may wish to lodge a complaint. 

According to the policy draft, students who wish to complain about compliance with the policy can lodge a complaint with the University Ombudsman.

In terms of student discipline, the policy draws upon the Student Code of Conduct and Non-Academic Misconduct procedures to deal with any threatening interferences of University events that may include academic debate. 

In a post on his Principal’s Blog last February, Woolf said respectful debate is central to academia and expressed his commitment to protecting academic freedom within the context of freedom of speech. 

The first draft of the policy addresses this commitment by stressing the University “should not restrict debate or deliberation because the ideas put forth may be callous, disturbing, hurtful, offensive, or unpopular.” 

The policy also states, although faculty, students and staff are “free to criticize, contest and condemn” opposing views, they may not interfere with the free speech of others.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.