Anglican Samizdat

February 9, 2009

Free speech dies a slow death on Canadian campuses

Filed under: Abortion — David Jenkins @ 2:08 pm
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From the National Post:

Should a public university, funded by taxpayers, be able to censor controversial speech on campus? According to the University of Calgary, the answer to this question is a resounding “yes.” In spite of its stated mission to “seek truth and disseminate knowledge,” and in spite of advertising itself as “a place of education and scholarly inquiry,” the University of Calgary has charged some of its own students with “trespassing” because they set up a pro-life display on their own campus this past November.

But in 2008, the University of Calgary wholly abandoned its commitment to free speech as a means of pursuing truth, and demanded the pro-life students erect their signs “facing inwards” — so that passers-by could not see the signs. While the university described its demand as a “reasonable compromise,” the practical effect was akin to total censorship.

[T]he university has expressed no qualms about other controversial large colour displays, including ones showing the effects of torture on political dissidents in China, the cruelty of animal testing and the consequences of spousal abuse. It seems gory and disturbing displays on campus are fine–as long as they do not convey a politically incorrect view on abortion.

The University of Calgary receives over $500-million from taxpayers each year. If it does not reacquaint itself with the ideals of tolerance, it may find taxpayers becoming less tolerant of footing such a hefty bill to support an institution which so blatantly disregards its own mission.

Displaying the signs “facing inwards” — so that passers-by could not see the signs and claiming this to be a compromise is an interesting approach by the university administration. It is an attempt to pay lip service to free speech by allowing students to display what they want while trying to ensure that no-one sees it. Like allowing a contentious book to be published, but only if it uses invisible ink.

The argument that photographs of aborted babies are sufficiently gory that the public should be spared being visually assaulted by them is a rather poor one since it views the depiction of  reality as more offensive than the reality itself. Photographs of murdered babies are less tolerable than the act of murdering babies.

And politically correct gore is allowed.

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