Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/3/2011 (3305 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In recent years, March has seen student organizations at a number of universities around the world organize events to protest what they define as "Israel Apartheid." Opposition to these events include those who believe that the overall premise is inaccurate or that the name of the events is inflammatory or racist. Others are concerned about what allowing these events to proceed would say about a society that claims to believe in tolerance. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that they have a right to express their views.
For the past two years, student organizers have held sessions associated with this event at the University of Manitoba, and each year, the university has been asked why it would not prevent them from taking place. Members of our community, both internal and external, have expressed concern about what might be said at these sessions and about whether they create safety concerns for our students, faculty and staff.
Though mindful of these concerns, the university has not stood in the way of event organizers — but has ensured that they are not proceeding without important constraints. Participants are monitored to ensure that the law is not broken and the university's respectful work and learning environment policy is respected, and that precautions are taken to protect the safety of members of our community.
Ultimately, we have an obligation to uphold the right to freedom of expression, and will not censor an individual or group for what has not yet been expressed.
At the same time, we have an obligation to intervene in the event that there is a violation of any other right, the law, or our policy. Universities long have been places that promote free inquiry and debate, a value that is codified in the commitment they make to the concept of academic freedom. Universities want our students to explore differences, understand them and learn from them. To think freely and consider alternatives. To listen.
Allowing students to organize and hold events that explore controversial subjects may not always be comfortable, but is a reflection of what universities are about. In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees four fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly. As an institution, we can and should offer nothing less.
University of Manitoba