Smart girl. Did her homework. However, the University does reserve the right to say no to certain things happening, because it is a private institution. For example, someone is in a restaurant and starts yelling about how the Jews are responsible for all the problems of the world after he has paid for his meal. He would be politely asked to leave the establishment, even though he paid to be there. After that, police would be called regardless of whether it is peaceful or not. He's paid to be there, like the girl from the video has, but he's bothering other patrons of the establishment. Therefore they are both technically in breach of the law of trespassing. I'm not saying she was spreading hate, but how would you feel if you were a girl who was raped and had to have an abortion, put that part of your life behind you by going to university, and then saw that sign. I'm pretty sure I would have to take the rest of the day off, making it infringe on my rights. If she were to do this exact same thing in a public place, like a park or something to that extent, there would be no problem, and if there is, then it's an infringement on freedom of speech.
While I understand that the University is technically private property, students have the right to peacefully protest on a campus where they are paying students. Unlike in the example above, the students were not spreading a message of hate. They were sharing information about their views on a controversial issue. At some point, someone decided that there views were not allowed to be heard. As a student myself, I have witnessed students protesting the most controversial and hot-button topics you could imagine on university campuses. Protesting typically arises under controversial circumstances by its very nature. The views expressed in these protests will likely conflict with views of other students on the campus. I have walked by several protests where I was offended by the message being presented. However, as a student, I understood that those protesters had the right to put forward their views. Though I understand that abortion is a very sensitive subject, it should not be the case that certain views are permitted to go forward while others are not. Who decides where to draw the line? Either peaceful protest should be permitted or not. If it is permitted, then subjective decisions of what subject-matter can be protested on a case by case basis cannot be made. Protesting by its nature is a way for people to voice their views, whether popular or not. You'd be hard pressed to find evidence of the same type of treatment of a pro-choice group when they are present on a university campus. What is more, the fact that the university would allow the protest, but only behind closed doors, seems to me to indicate an understanding that the protest was allowed, but they just didn't want anyone to see it...
I thought this was an interesting take on the matter by Carleton's own Ecumenical Chaplain, Wayne Menard. See below:Do we have the right to ‘offend’?On October 4th, 2010 four registered, full-time Carleton students were arrested for trespassing on Carleton University property. Not an easy thing for the university to order and certainly not an easy thing for the students to endure. Some have argued recently that the students, having been refused permission to present their display in the Tory Quad, but given permission to present in Porter Hall is a form of censorship. It seems, according to our university administration, that the display crossed the line into the realm of the ‘offensive’. The issue at stake is not that there are lines we ought not to cross, the issue at stake is ‘who determines when we have crossed the line. Four Carleton students were arrested because they believed their message was important and that it should be delivered publicly. They also knew that it would be offensive to some but frankly, what idea is not offensive, at least to some? When speaking with the students I quickly learned that the stifling of free and public discussion around an important issue was their cause for real concern. One student offered this sobering observation, “If they (Carleton) can do this to them (the four arrested students) then what is stopping them from doing that to me? Now I’m afraid to say anything!”When asked if I had seen the ‘offensive’ display and did I not think it should be somewhere, out of the way I answered that I had not seen the display because the students had been arrested, the display removed and the students taken away before I had a chance to decide for myself. My concern is that I have been denied the opportunity to engage in a fair-minded discussion.In the attempt to strike a balance between freedom of expression and the rights of the community Carleton University may have sacrificed what is left of the university’s claim to be the modern marketplace of ideas. This marketplace, where the widest possible range of ideas can become part of the discourse around what is best for society; where these ideas can confront and be confronted by critique and opposition, support and emendation – the university is the place where ideas can be discussed in a free, transparent and public manner. As one professor said, “If not here, then where?”While the university’s use-of-space policy does endorse freedom of speech it is also moderated by what we believe to be the policy interpreter’s exaggerated desire to be inoffensive. We suggest that the university has erred on the side of caution. Rather than promoting and encouraging a healthy and productive tension between freedom of expression and public sensibility, the university has risked this creative tension by yielding to what may be a single voice. This application of the policy also smacks of paternalism. It suggests the public is not capable of deciding for itself what is or what is not appropriate. Censorship by any other name is still censorship. It will be a sad day for the university when it abrogates its publicly given mandate to foster the free exchange of ideas for the purposes of creating a better society. It will be a sadder day when passionate students who care deeply about an issue no longer feel free to enter into the marketplace of ideas to promote their ideas, inviting debate to test the ideas merits. It will be the saddest of days when students in their own university, for fear of arrest or expulsion, stay silent.To answer the question, “who determines what is appropriate for public consumption?” we would suggest it is the public. Rather than taking on the mantle of censor and protector of the innocent, perhaps the university could resume its public mandate to promote the open exchange of ideas and let the public say when they are offended. We are more offended by the distortions of the principle of freedom of expression than we are by shocking images and controversial ideas.To that end, John Osborne, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and myself, Wayne Menard, Ecumenical Chaplain, will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on November 1st at 12:00 with a view to enlarging the debate around freedom of expression and the role of the university. Come and join us..
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