February 10, 2011
Dr. J. Colin Dodds, President
Saint Mary’s University
Dear Dr Dodds:
Re: Freedom of Student Expression
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 defense of academic freedom and reasoned debate. For further information, please visit our website at www.safs.ca.
As you know, on November 30, 2010, Matt Anderson, the president of the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association, ordered members of a student society to remove a sign from their display. In doing so, Mr. Anderson interfered with the peaceful and orderly expression of opinion on your campus.
Universities are institutions dedicated to the advancement of knowledge. Experience teaches us that the discovery and transmission of knowledge are best pursued through unfettered debate. At a university, advocates of opposing positions must be allowed to say what they want and be encouraged to challenge each other in vigorous and reasoned debate. By his action, Mr. Anderson has contributed to a climate of intolerance toward expression. Such intolerance is incompatible with Saint Mary’s dedication to the discovery and transmission of truth.
We have written to Mr. Anderson about this issue.
We write to you to urge you to state publicly that Saint Mary’s University does not approve of Mr. Anderson’s actions and to assure the Saint Mary’s University community that the administration is doing what it can to see that in the future students and others may say what they want at Saint Mary’s without interference.
By remaining silent, many will interpret you as signaling to the Saint Mary’s community that you approve of Mr. Anderson’s action. This cannot but have a chilling effect on expression and communication on campus. If the harm Mr. Anderson’s action has done to the integrity and mission of Saint Mary’s University is to be undone, the administration at Saint Mary’s must speak up and begin to lead.
We look forward to your response, and we will post it on our website along with this letter to you.
CC: David Gauthier, VP Academic