April 7, 2009

Mr. Allan Rock
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Ottawa

Office of the President


Dear President Rock:


Iím writing on behalf of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS), a national organization of professors, students, and interested others who are dedicated to academic freedom, free speech, and reasoned debate on university campuses. You can learn more about our organization at www.safs.ca.


Recently, your senior administration banned from your campus a controversial political cartoon displayed as a poster during Israel Apartheid Week. SAFS strongly opposes your decision to censor the cartoon. No doubt the banned cartoon was perceived by some, or even many, as offensive, inaccurate, unfair, deliberately provocative, and repugnant. But lawful and peaceful debate must be allowed to run its course. The primary mission of the university is the pursuit of truth, and this goal must not be limited because the presentation of an  argument is hurtful or because university administrators want to shape the extent or tone of the debate.


SAFSí position is to oppose all censorship of lawful speech on university campuses, because censorship precludes the full investigation of the correctness or incorrectness of ideas. Proponents and opponents must be able to present whatever facts and viewpoints they believe are relevant in an attempt to demonstrate the correctness of their position. Reasoned and free debate is the best means yet discovered to pursue and ascertain the truth.  If debate is corrupted by censorship then the university becomes no more than an indoctrination center.


Our hope is that we will not see any further attempts at your university to censor opinion on controversial topics.  We would appreciate a response to our concerns.




Clive Seligman, PhD