Thursday, February 16, 2006
What follows is an open letter, dated Feb. 13, from the Canadian Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship to Dr. Wade MacLauchlan, president of the University of Prince Edward Island.
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Dear President MacLauchlan:
I am writing to you as president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship. We are a national organization of university faculty members and interested others who are dedicated to the defence of academic freedom and reasoned debate. For further information, please visit our website at www.safs.ca.
We are writing to strongly protest the actions of the University of Prince Edward Island administration in seizing copies of the student newspaper, The Cadre (issue dated Feb. 8), and preventing their distribution. UPEI's public statement of Feb. 8 that censorship of The Cadre can be justified "on grounds that publication of the caricatures represents a reckless invitation to public disorder and humiliation" is contrary to the duty of all university presidents to maintain their campuses as places where debate of controversial issues may take place. Fear of possible "mob action" must not be allowed to dictate to UPEI or any other Canadian university what ideas its students and faculty may express, disseminate and debate. By censoring this debate at your campus rather than taking the necessary steps to provide appropriate security to allow debate to happen, you have encouraged the view that the threat of violence, real or imagined, is an effective way to challenge ideas with which one disagrees.
The decision as to what is to be included in a newspaper must be made by the editorial board, based on their understanding of the newsworthiness of the story. Those who disagree with the newspaper's coverage or viewpoint can register their opposition by writing letters to the editor, demonstrating or simply by refusing to read the paper or to advertise in it. Disagreeable speech should be countered by opposing arguments. Censorship is not an acceptable response to the expression of contrary opinions, and especially not on a university campus. Sending the campus police to confiscate copies of the student newspaper is an overreaction and a victory for potential censors who seem to have intimidated the administration of UPEI.
UPEI has given the impression that vigorous debate is to be avoided whenever offence may be taken, or at the very least that such debate is to occur only on terms decided by the university administration. Surely, this is not the image of UPEI that you want to promote.
We call on you to reverse your decision and to let The Cadre do its job.
Clive Seligman, president, Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, www.safs.ca
Links: Censorship on the Island