Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Freedom of Expression


Update: Draft Statement on Free Expression available for feedback

The Advisory Group on Free Expression has developed a draft statement, based on input received from our community through September and October. The Advisory Group has also provided a colour-coded version of the draft statement, indicating statements specifically requested by the Ministry as well as others that respond to key themes heard from the university community. The draft statement will be considered by GFC Executive Committee on November 4 for recommendation to GFC on November 25 and then to the Board of Governors on December 13.

How to provide input;
Online or by email at free.expression@ualberta.ca
In-person town hall: Friday, November 1, 12:00-13:00, Council Chambers (University Hall)

Free expression within our university community

The University of Alberta actively fosters an inclusive culture committed to the expression of, exposure to, and debate of diverse points of view. Our campuses are forums for rigorous debate. Our work and study excel through exchange and collaboration. Our discourses and discoveries are enriched by the diversity of individuals, groups, disciplines, perspectives, approaches, and questions that characterize our community.

Over the past year, the university has been reviewing its policy framework related to free expression. In addition, in July 2019 Alberta Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides requested universities and colleges across the province strengthen free expression on campuses by formally adopting the Chicago Principles or developing their own policies that are compliant with the spirit of the Chicago Principles.

View the Letter from Minister Nicolaides (July 4, 2019)

An Advisory Group on Free Expression was established to advise on the creation of a statement on free expression for our university community. The group has recommended a new university statement be created to support and clearly communicate our community’s commitment to free expression.

Draft Principles for Input

The Advisory Group on Free Expression is currently seeking the community’s feedback on draft principles that will shape a University of Alberta statement on free expression. The draft principles were developed from a review of our current U of A policy context, careful consideration of existing approaches in different jurisdictions, and early consultation with General Faculties Council (GFC) on May 27.

Our principles are intended to express both the university’s fundamental commitment to free expression as foundational to teaching, learning, and research, as well as our commitment to inclusiveness and respect for human dignity.

Throughout September 2019, the Advisory Group will be inviting members of the university community to share their thoughts through a variety of channels, including town halls, a consultation review workshop, email, and regular governance meetings.

View the U of A DRAFT Principles on Free Expression


How can you participate?

Send feedback by email

Comments and suggestions can be shared with the Advisory Group through free.expression@ualberta.ca

Attend a town hall session

Campus Saint-Jean: September 17, 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., Gamila Morcos Room, Lacerte Bldg room 3-04
North Campus: September 20, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., Council Chamber, University Hall
Augustana: September 27, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., Roger Epp Room

Attend a community consultation review workshop

On October 8 (10:00 - 12:00) the Advisory Group will host an open workshop and panel discussion featuring expert commentary and a scenario based exercise to explore the complexities of freedom of expression in the university context and to discuss the draft principles. The workshop will feature an introduction by Chancellor Stollery and University General Counsel Brad Hamdon, panel discussion featuring Professors Toni Samek (Education) and Eric Adams (Law), and moderated discussion featuring members of the university's Advisory Group on Free Expression. The workshop will take place in Council Chambers (Room 2-100 CC) 2nd Floor, University Hall.  Please RSVP here.  

If you require accommodation to participate, please email free.expression@ualberta.ca by 10 days prior to the event. 


Community Consultation FAQs

Why is a statement on free expression important?

Free expression is essential within a university community. A stand alone, university-wide statement will clearly communicate and support free expression within our post-secondary community and across our campuses. It is intended to express both the university’s fundamental commitment to free expression as foundational to teaching, learning, and research, as well as our commitment to inclusiveness and respect for human dignity.

Our resulting final statement on free expression will supplement and not replace or modify existing University of Alberta policies, statements, or agreements.

What’s the difference between free speech and free expression?

Free expression is not limited to verbal communication. Free expression includes any verbal, written, oral, aural, visual, and artistic expression, as well as peaceful protest and dissent.

What is the relationship between free expression and academic freedom?

Academic freedom and free expression are both important concepts on university campuses, but they are not synonymous.

As stated above, free expression includes any verbal, written, oral, aural, visual, and artistic expression, as well as peaceful protest and dissent. As a public university, we ensure free expression is available to all members of our university community and visitors to our campuses.

Academic freedom, in contrast, is a professional term applicable to scholars. At the University of Alberta, the right to academic freedom is addressed in the collective academic agreement.

Our consultation is about free expression on our campuses. It will not impact the academic freedom of our scholars.

I’m not a faculty member, does this still apply to me?

Free expression is available to all members of our university community -- students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors -- in accordance with the university's principles and policies. We invite all interested members of the university community to participate in our consultation on free expression by attending an upcoming town hall session, reaching out to an Advisory Group member, or sending your feedback to free.expression@ualberta.ca.

Doesn't the U of A have existing policies and statements related to free expression?

Yes. Over the past year, the university has been reviewing its policy framework related to free expression.

Our resulting final statement on free expression will supplement, and not replace or modify existing University of Alberta policies, statements, or agreements.

What are the next steps after consultation?

After the university community consultation is closed on October 1, the Advisory Group will host an open workshop and panel discussion where you can learn what they heard during the consultation. The October 8 event will also include expert commentary.

Following University of Alberta typical governance process, the Advisory Group will finalize a statement to submit to the Board of Governors and subsequently to the General Faculties Council requesting their respective endorsements. Once endorsed, it will be submitted to Alberta Advanced Education. The Alberta Advanced Education deadline for submission in November 15, 2019.

Who are the members of the Advisory Group on Free Expression?

The Advisory Group is chaired by the Deputy Provost and includes subject matter experts, members of the GFC Executive Committee, and key administrative portfolios.

Members

Wendy Rodgers, Deputy Provost (Chair)
Andre Costopolous, Vice-Provost and Dean of Students
Mary Forhan, Associate Professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
Brad Hamdon, General Counsel
Logan Mardhani-Bayne, Strategic Development Manager, Office of the Provost
Catherine Swindlehurst, Chief of Staff, Office of the President
Marc Waddingham, Graduate Students’ Association
Joel Agarwal, Students' Union
Lesley Cormack, Dean of Arts
Bill Foster, Professor, Augustana
David Johnson, Special Advisor, Faculty and Staff Relations
Toni Samek, Professor, Faculty of Education
Anne Bailey, Executive Director, Strategic Communications, University Relations