This issue, we’ve got another student who has put her two cents in on the election, taking on the task of creating her own summary of some of the student focussed policies. Even if you’ve already read my rundown, you should probably read hers as she puts some thought into what these various promises actually mean, whereas I just served as a type of stenographer.
One of the promises repeated on the right side of the political spectrum is this one of “protecting freedom of expression” at universities. Sounds like a grand thing, doesn’t it? Of course universities should protect freedom of expression, people should be able to put forth all sorts of ideas at universities, right?
But freedom of expression is a very limited thing. It simply means that the government will not arrest you for saying something. That’s it. It is not a criminal offense to voice your opinion. That’s all freedom of expression means. And the universities already have that, as do we all.
So what are they really promoting? To know that, we have to go back and see where these “freedom of expression” policies came about. They came about from things like universities not wanting to allow anti-abortionists to promote their cause with the usual methods of graphic and grotesque imagery. They came from far right-wing Ann Coulter cancelling an event at the University of Ottawa due to the depth and loudness of the protests being such that her security team thought it might be too much for them to handle.
What they want to promote, it seems, isn’t so much freedom of expression, but rather no responsibility for expression. The ability to say absolutely anything at all without having to engage in forethought or suffer consequences for doing so.
Something these parties should consider. Is nudism freedom of expression? Will the conservative party, or the PPC party, both of which say they’ll make these guarantees, come down on a university if they choose to expel a nudist from campus? After all, simply being nude is not an affront to anything except some people’s sensibilities—much as an anti-abortion’s graphic imagery.
Is protesting vaccine mandates freedom of expression? If so, what then about demonstrations against those who protest the vaccine mandates? Especially when, as recent polls are showing, over 70% of people support the idea of vaccine mandates, meaning that those in favor could grossly outnumber the few who are against. Outnumber them so much that they might feel fearful for themselves, and cancel events, even if nothing has happened.
It’s when we consider these type of examples and the likely conservative response—if they stay to form—that we realize these promoting freedom of expression policies only apply if it’s expressions that they themselves approve of.
With great freedom, as they say, comes great responsibility. If one of the parties were promoting the protection of the responsibility of expression on campus, then you might actually have something worth voting for.
In the meantime, however, might I suggest not voting for a party that doesn’t understand the difference between freedoms and lack of responsibility. There are other choices on the menu. And until then, why not also check out our feature interview with the latest Minds We Meet, or any of our other bits of advice, thoughtful articles, events, reviews, scholarships and more!