Ontario’s 24 colleges approve new free speech policy

The presidents of Ontario’s 24 colleges approved a new free speech policy that was publicly posted at each college on New Year’s Day.

“Freedom of expression is fundamental to the dissemination of knowledge and to encouraging creative thinking,” said Linda Franklin, Colleges Ontario president and CEO. “We’re committed to the open discussion of diverse ideas and respecting everyone’s right to express their opinions.”

The policy was developed by a task force of senior college leaders in collaboration with the College Student Alliance, legal experts and others. It was approved at a recent meeting of Ontario’s college presidents.

The policy statement is primarily based on the University of Chicago’s Statement on Principles of Free Expression and has five core elements: a definition of freedom of speech; a commitment to allow open discussion and free inquiry; a statement that it is not the colleges’ role to shield members of the college community from ideas they disagree with; a statement that while members of the college community are free to contest the views of others, they must also respect the rights of others to express their views; and an affirmation that speech that violates the law is not allowed.

The policy describes the procedures for handling complaints and ensuring there is compliance. The policy also states that it is aligned with other college policies and they shall all be considered together. The policy took effect Jan. 1 and applies to the entire college community.

“Ontario’s colleges provide students with the professional expertise and judgment that leads to rewarding careers,” Franklin said. “This new policy enhances our delivery of leading-edge programs that put Ontario at the forefront of the new economy.”

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