“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….” – Noam Chomsky
Universities have long been instrumental in promoting the potential of humans by being sanctuaries of free thought, free expression, and constant questioning of the world around us. It is unfortunate that, in this day and age, that institutions of higher education have largely lost this sense of importance in promoting freedom of expression and the importance of the individual. This phenomenon has largely been the doing of radical student unions and professors who seem to prefer silencing viewpoints that oppose their own. In Canada for instance, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms published its 2014 Campus Freedom Index, in which 33 of the 52 Canadian universities featured in the index were given a failing grade for their efforts to preserve freedom of expression on campus.
Not only have more than half of Canadian universities failed to protect the freedom that is most important to higher education, they have also applied their censorship and rejection of free speech in the most biased way possible. In 2012, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) forced the club called the McGill Friends of Israel to change an event named “Israel-A-party,” while not censoring other clubs which accuse the Jewish state of instituting apartheid. The University of Toronto and Ryerson University’s respective student unions have banned the existence of men’s issues awareness clubs on their respective campuses, claiming the organizations were affiliated with A Voice for Men and the Canadian Association for Equality, which the student unions deemed to be “hate groups.” However, neither organization has been labelled as such by any other entities that are generally trusted make such a designation, such as the police or courts. The list of instances of student associations playing judge, jury, and executioner in cases like these goes on.
Radicalized students and student unions are shooting not only themselves and the students they are meant to represent in the foot, but higher education itself as well. When free and intelligent debate is censored on campus by a small but loud minority that want to limit discourse to their views, we are effectively limiting our own scope of perspectives. Student unions, as organizations committed to representing all members of their respective student bodies, have no right to impose biased or narrowed perspectives on any or all students.
Unfortunately, despite the majority of students holding neutral or moderate political views, campus discourse within many Canadian universities still suffers from a radical leftist atmosphere. What is wrong with expressing solidarity with Israel as so many student groups do with Palestine? Why can men not organize a group to discuss issues that predominantly affect their gender? These expressions and others like them have been relentlessly suppressed by numerous student unions. It is well past due time to end this Orwellian culture on campus.
It is fair to claim in response that free speech should be restricted by the rights and freedoms of others. However, the only such instances in which free speech should ever be limited is in the case of hate speech. Designating a statement or group as a “hate group” or “hate speech” should not be a power belonging to any arbitrary student or student organization. Student associations are not legally accredited to determine what does or does not construe hate speech, and their laws do not, or at least should not , overrule the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that all Canadians benefit from .