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Exclusive: Guelph-Humber to create free speech mandate with partners

The University of Guelph-Humber will be working with partners Humber College and the University of Guelph on the Ontario Free Speech on campuses mandate.



Eli Ridder | Report

The University of Guelph-Humber will create a free speech policy, as mandated by the Ontario government last week, in partnership with Humber College and the Guelph central campus, the school told The Avro Post on Tuesday.

A Guelph-Humber spokesperson told The Avro Post via email that the school “will be working with its partner institutions to ensure that expectations and timelines are met.”

“We will have more information closer to the end of the year,” Elissa Schmidt continued in an email, ignoring questions over whether student or student leaders would have input.

The Ontario government told The Avro Post that institutions are not required to work with elected student leaders, but a spokeswoman said working with student government “may be helpful in this regard.”

The free speech policy was announced by the Doug Ford government on Aug. 30, mandating that universities and colleges across the province must develop a free speech policy by next year.

The policy will apply to students, student groups, staff, faculty and visitors and has to include a “definition of freedom of speech” as post-secondary institutions “should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions they disagree with or find offensive.”

Both Humber College and IGNITE have not yet responded to requests to comment from The Avro Post regarding student involvement in the free speech policy.

Public campuses will have to produce the free speech policy by Jan. 1 and complete an annual review on its implementation that will be published publicly and sent to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario starting in 2019.

Read the full statement here: “Free Speech Policy

Student group ‘compliance’

The release from the premier’s office said that official student groups or clubs at schools have to comply with the free speech policy set by its institution or it will not receive funding or official status.

The government also wants student unions to “adopt policies that align with the free speech policy”.

The mandate has importance from the point of view of the province, as it was released specifically from the premier’s office and not the education ministry.

It follows a scandal last year where a Wilfred Laurier University teacher’s assistant showed a video clip featuring controversial, right-wing professor Jordan Peterson, who works at the University of Toronto.

Kylie Brooks, a transgender fourth year at Humber College, told The Avro Post she was worried over the mandate from Ford’s Progressive Conservative government.

“I am concerned for marginalized students,” the computer programming student said.

“Will we have a repeat of what happened regarding Jordan Peterson at the University of Toronto?”

Previous Board of Directors candidate for IGNITE and Guelph-Humber student Amelia Savoie said that “I think people who are politically on either side should have the right to speak as long as it is not hateful.”

Hannah Derue, a candidate in the Guelph Senate by-election this fall at Guelph-Humber, said that she wanted a clear, “operationalized” definition of the government’s use of the word “disruption”.

“Any activist will tell you that many, if not most, effective means of protest involve some level of disruption in order to challenge the status quo,” the fourth year psychology student told The Avro Post.

“I will be looking to see how students at the University of Guelph-Humber respond to this new policy before I can comment on any action that may be taken in response to this announcement.”

Derue is referencing a part of the statement saying “that existing student discipline measures apply to students whose actions are contrary to the policy” that uses the example of consequences for “disruptive protesting”.

A request for comment from Senate candidate Kayla Terceira as well as IGNITE leadership and currently elected senators has been ignored thus far.

More details to follow.

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