Wilfrid Laurier University is aware of the outrage, frustration and sadness being expressed in response to comments by some faculty members on social media or in other public forums. Laurier acknowledges the harm online comments can cause Black, Indigenous, racialized and other equity-seeking individuals, including our students, staff and faculty. This harm must be collectively mitigated by fostering a campus environment in which all members of the Laurier community feel safe, welcome and valued.
We live in challenging times. Freedom of expression, which historically served to fight injustice, inequality, and marginalization, is often turned against those seeking justice, equality, and inclusion. The university upholds the value of free expression and diversity of thought as essential to the pursuit of knowledge.
We must recognize, however, that universities were for too long places where only some voices were part of the conversation. As well, power inequities in relationships among members of the university community exist. It is incumbent on the university to recognize this legacy of exclusion and to redouble our efforts to ensure that all voices are heard. In this way, our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion underpins our commitment to free expression (for a more detailed discussion, see Laurier’s Freedom of Expression Statement).
Participating in this unfolding conversation is an essential part of intellectual and personal development, so we strive to teach students how to engage in effective counter-speech. In particular, all members of the community should be able to speak out strongly against speech which marginalizes others by asserting that they are not full and equal participants in the conversation. This kind of disenfranchisement should be called out for what it is, especially if it occurs in the classroom. Resources provided by the university support students in building thriving communities, including through their exercise of their free expression.
There is a difference between personal opinions that are expressed on social media and public forums versus ideas and arguments that are expressed in the classroom or in student-advisor interactions. Utterances on personal media sites are not proffered on behalf of the institution and may not reflect the university’s values and our commitment to a safe and inclusive environment.
It is fundamental to the academic environment that the university does not hinder or penalize faculty members for exercising their legal rights to free expression. These freedoms are not unlimited, including in classrooms or other instructional contexts.
Laurier students and employees can raise issues or complaints related to discrimination, harassment or where speech or actions promote or engender violence or physical harm. The university will review and apply university procedures and policies. Further, we encourage everyone in our community to fully engage in their rights of free expression.
If students have experienced racism, hate, or oppression in the classroom or in student-advisor interactions, there are avenues at Laurier to address concerns (see below).
If you are a member of the Laurier community who needs additional support or has concerns about incidents you have witnessed or experienced, please contact one or more of the following.