Ontario universities receive a great deal of funding from the government of Ontario. Unfortunately for Doug Ford, however, that does not then require those universities to extol the ideologies of that government. That is, in fact, the antithesis to the purpose that universities exist to serve.
Furthermore, it is contrary to the traditional values of the conservative right for a government to impose itself on the activities of public institutions and the public in general. The flag-bearer of free speech himself, Jordan Peterson, is lauded by advocates of absolute freedom of speech for reeling against what he has termed “compelled speech.”
By creating a mandate which threatens to revoke funding for student groups which do not consistently abide by the terms of the new free speech policy, Ford’s government is about to implement, in essence, exactly the sort of compelled speech mandate which its Petersonian supporters so emphatically condemn.
There should be no reason that a place of learning and the pursuit of societal betterment should be forced to accept speakers whom they deem to be undermining this aim, or to give these individuals a platform that legitimizes such claims as if they were acceptable or reasonable.
This applies twofold to student associations, which can be places of refuge for students to come together under a collective set of principles or beliefs, and it is unclear as to what extent the provincial government will enforce the new policy.
Student groups at Wilfrid Laurier University recently used the screen of free speech to justify an invitation to white nationalist Faith Goldy. Will a Jewish Students’ Association, for example, be reprimanded for disallowing the flow of opinions if they do not allow a Holocaust denier into its gatherings? It would certainly be inspiring if the University of Toronto Campus Conservatives invited a member of the NDP Socialist Caucus U of T Club to speak at their meetings, and vice versa.
The Ford government has no business, however, forcing this or similar scenarios to occur under threat of defunding.
Anna Osterberg is a first-year Master of Teaching student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.