Vice-President and Provost, University of Toronto
PDAD&C #38 (2006-07)
Date: February 6, 2007
Re: Upcoming controversial Events On Campus
As been our custom over the last few years, I am writing to alert you to the fact that over the coming weeks and months, there are likely to be a number of student group events and activities which some members of the University community may find controversial.
The essential purpose of the University is to engage in the pursuit of truth, the advancement of learning and the dissemination of knowledge. To achieve this end, all members of the University of Toronto are afforded full freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of assembly. That means members may comment on any issue or idea, and also have the right to criticize the University and society at large.
Discourse and debate have long been recognized as means by which significant contributions have been made to social and political change and the advancement of human rights. To enable the free exchange of ideas and views, the university's core values include tolerance, mutual respect and civility. More specifically, the University believes that all members of its community have the right to study, teach, work, live and debate in an environment that is inclusive, free of discrimination and harassment on the basis of individual attributes such as religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
As a corollary, the University deplores any abuse of the rights of freedom of speech and assembly that shuts down the voices of others or intimidates identifiable individuals and groups. The administration acknowledges that some forms of expression fall short of the legal limits on hate speech, but nonetheless are harmful to identifiable members of our community. The University recognizes that harmful speech is a destructive force on our campuses and, though not prohibited by law, is repugnant to the administration.
In its efforts to deal with harmful speech, the administration will reach out to those individuals and/or communities who are affected by harmful speech or who as a result, collectively, fear for their safety. Those who engage in harmful speech will be warned about the damaging nature of their words and tactics, and urged to advance provocative opinions in a manner that stimulates the widest range of dialogue and debate in a spirit consistent with full freedom of expression in an academic setting.
Events with a high likelihood for harmful speech will be monitored closely for possible violations of University policies and agreements, and repeated violations may result in loss of access to services in the University community. Complaints about alleged violations of policy and law will be investigated promptly by the administration.
Our specific practices in this area have been documented in several previous memoranda to principals, deans, academic directors and chairs:
- PDAD&C #79, 2005-06 - Freedom of Speech and Events Organized by Campus Organizations: http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/English/79---Freedom-of-Speech-and-Events-Organized-by-Campus-Organizations.html
- PDAD&C #46, 2004-05 – Freedom of Speech and Campus Activities: http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/English/46---Freedom-of-Speech-and-Campus-Activities.html
- PDAD&C #48, 2004-05 – Statement on Events Organized by the Arab Students’ Collective: http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/English/PDADC48-Statement-on-events-organized-by-Arab-Students--Collective.html
The University’s attention to these matters is coordinated through the office of the Deputy Provost & Vice-Provost, Students. If you have any questions or concerns related to freedom of speech and campus activities, please contact Jim Delaney, Associate Director & Senior Policy Advisor, Student Affairs at 416-978-4027 or firstname.lastname@example.org.