I just finished reading the editorial from the November 21 issue of The Varsity and was taken aback when I read the editorial (“Free Speech or Free-for-all?”). I must say I disagree completely with the sentiments that having “Debates and protests of the Israel-Palestine kind… have no place on a university campus.” Is the university not supposed to be the place of higher learning, where (unlike high school) no issue is unmentionable?
Have we not learned that the best way to be informed about an issue is to listen to all sides of the debate and then make up our minds about what we believe? Isn’t the university supposed to be an open forum, especially for controversial issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict? Sure it is a complex issue that people get extremely passionate about, but is that good enough reason to scare a university away from even mentioning it? What’s wrong with a little passion? One of the purposes of the university is to direct this passion into intellectual discussion and debate that will hopefully lead to understanding and acceptance, which will allow our generation to learn from past mistakes and work towards putting an end to conflicts worldwide.
So you might say “what about the protests and riots outside Concordia when Mr. Netanyahu tried to speak in September?” Well, people are legally allowed to protest PEACEFULLY. If they feel strongly that they are against Mr. Netanyahu speaking, then so be it. Let their opinion be heard. That is the whole point of the right to Free Speech is it not? I have no problem with protests that are civil. If the protesters get violent and don’t allow the former Prime Minister into the school then arrest them. That is what the law says to do, isn’t it? The thing is, people do have a fundamental right to free speech, no matter the issue, no matter how controversial. It is fine to say we have free speech, and that is great, but this really gets tested when it comes to such touchy subjects such as the Israel-Palestine conflict. I believe that censoring this right to free speech by banning all debates and guest-speakers on this issue is taking the easy way out, living the safe life that too many choose to do in this day and age. The university has traditionally been the one setting where such issues can be tackled by the top minds of today (profs, guest speakers etc.) and the top minds of tomorrow (students). After all, it will be the top minds of tomorrow who will be in positions of power in the near future and will be dealing with such issues first hand, whether in the Middle East or Canada, or anywhere else in the world. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to be informed today so we can act justly and fairly tomorrow?