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Minister says Alberta to ‘strengthen’ free speech on campuses as U of L halts controversial lecture

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Alberta’s Minister of Higher Education said new measures to “strengthen free speech” on post-secondary campuses would be announced in the near future. The news follows a university’s decision to overturn its policy on public speaking.

of Lethbridge University said Former Mount Royal University professor Francis Widowson, who was scheduled to give a lecture on campus this week on Wednesday night, was not offered space.

Widdowson made headlines in 2020 with comments suggesting that boarding schools had educational benefits.

Alberta Higher Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said he learned of L University’s decision on Monday.

“We understand that past comments by this speaker have been controversial, but we believe it is important for our university to foster a strong culture of free speech and diverse perspectives. To incite hatred and violence, of course,” Nicolaides said in a statement provided to CBC News.

“In the near future, we will be announcing new measures to strengthen free speech on our post-secondary campuses in Alberta. should.”

Nicolaides added that his comments should not be construed as agreeing with Widdowson’s previous comments.

Notley calls minister’s position ‘troublesome’

Opposition leader Rachel Notley said Tuesday she was haunted by the position taken by the minister.

“As far as I’m concerned, the idea of ​​someone coming to college, especially to Lethbridge, and speaking to a student body made up of many Indigenous students about how they’re benefiting from boarding schools. , is very troublesome for me,” Notley said during a media reveal. “It’s a very hurtful communication.”

Opposition NDP leader Rachel Notley said during a media briefing on Tuesday, following earlier comments from former Mount Royal University professor Francis Widowson, Alberta Higher Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides. He said he was haunted by the position he took. (CBC)

Notley said he believed it would be an exception to the free speech principle.

“The failure of the UCP to understand how incredibly detrimental these ideas are to Alberta’s vast population reflects the practical experience that treaty officials have had over the centuries. It shows that they don’t understand trauma.

Changes made in addition to the “Chicago Principles”

The minister’s spokesperson, Sam Blackett, said these new changes are likely to be announced within the next week or two.

Alberta already University of Chicago Statement on Freedom of Expression PrinciplesAlso known as the “Chicago Principles,” states that universities must promote freedom of discussion and protect it from potential restrictions.

“Members of the university community are free to criticize and challenge views expressed on campus, but they are free to criticize and challenge speakers invited to express their views on campus. But it must not interfere with or interfere with the freedom of others to express their opinions, which, according to the Chicago Principles, they may reject or even dislike.

Under former Alberta Premier Jason Kenny, all 26 publicly funded higher education institutions have urged them to either endorse the principles first announced in 2014 or develop separate policies consistent with them. instructed.

All institutions have complied by the December 15, 2019 deadline.

This principle has been adopted by dozens of US universities. has also been Adopted in Ontario. However, some critics have suggested that the principle is fraught with various flaws.

“The main drawback of the Chicago Principles lies in the false guarantees they provide to the colleges and universities that support them,” said Sigal Ben-Porath, professor of political science and education at the University of Pennsylvania. wrote in 2018.

“They rely on a legal, formal framework intended to provide a response to a set of problems that seldom uses such blunt tools.”

University decision reversed

L’s U’s decision was a reversal of the previous positions released. Thursdaythe university disagreed with Widowson, suggesting that it would allow lectures to proceed in line with its policy on freedom of expression.

Widdowson had been invited by the U of L faculty to give a lecture on “How ‘Awakeningism’ Threatens Academic Freedom.”

But by Monday, after days of opposition from students and faculty, and two petitions had We received over 2,500 signatures demanding that the speech be canceled — the university has changed course.

A building is shown on the left side of the collage, and a photograph of a woman looking at the camera is shown on the right side.
On the left is a file photo of the University of Lethbridge campus. At right is a photograph of his former Mount Royal College professor Francis Widowson. On Monday, the University of Lethbridge said it would not provide space for her scheduled lectures on campus. (Michael Worf, Facebook)

Widowson trending in 2020 After the Black Lives Matter movement destroyed Mount Royal College, stating that boarding schools had educational benefits, 6,000 call for her to be fired Via petition.

She frequently suggests that she has been punished for criticizing “awakened ideas” and that the open exchange of ideas is under threat in today’s universities.

Widdowson, meanwhile, said she was due to come to the university on Wednesday to give a talk, adding that university security would have to “force her away” to stop her.

L’s spokesperson AU said Tuesday that university officials saw her intentions on social media and were “trying to engage members of the university community in an impromptu way.”

“As always, the university will begin an approach to carefully mitigate disruptions and prioritize the safety and security of our campus community,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

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