Dear members of the UBC community:
Freedom of expression continues to be a major topic of discussion at higher education institutions around North America. Here at UBC we have been encouraging discussion about our own homegrown statement (which can be found on the VP Academic website). As our academic community grows and diversifies, it is incumbent upon us all to be mindful of promoting the fullest and healthiest environment conducive to the exchange of ideas, opinions, and thoughts. This is the responsibility of us all.
In early November we posted a draft statement on freedom of expression and asked for feedback to ensure we heard from a broad range of voices. I am heartened by both the extent and richness of the responses that we have received to the draft statement.
I encourage you to read the responses. Some colleagues have drafted alternative versions of the statement. Others – students, staff, and faculty – have contributed longer, more detailed reviews of the strengths and weaknesses of the original draft document. Several classes in various Faculties have debated the freedom of expression document and their feedback will also be posted soon. In total, more than 160 of you have provided your thoughts. All of these comments are now posted on the web, or soon will be.
However, we don’t want to stop here. Support for freedom of expression is overwhelming, exactly as one would expect; however, there are clear differences among community members as to exactly how we should both understand and promote freedom of expression.
Differences of opinion on some core issues still exist. Some members of the community believe freedom of expression is a fundamental freedom subject to no (or very minimal) conditions. Others argue that some conditions must apply, but how far those conditions ought to extend is where much disagreement occurs.
Where do you stand on this and other issues? We welcome your thoughts and encourage you to view the wealth of material online. Share your own views and join the conversation from now until December 8, 2017.
Professor Santa J. Ono
President and Vice Chancellor