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Opinion

Freedom of expression is under attack on campus

By Peter MacKinnon      

The following are author-selected excerpts from University Commons Divided: Exploring Debate & Dissent on Campus, short-listed along with four other books for this year’s Donner Prize, the best public policy book of the year by a Canadian. The winner will be announced on May 1 in Toronto.

Free-speech flashpoints keep popping up on Canadian campuses. University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, left, was told that he must use genderless pronouns. Andrew Potter, centre, director of McGill University's Institute for the Study of Canada, resigned after an article he wrote for Maclean's magazine generated controversy. And at the University of Ottawa, a scheduled speech by divisive American commentator Ann Coulter, right, was cancelled because of safety concerns. The Hill Times file photograph, photographs courtesy of Gage Skidmore

The commons that is the subject of this book is a platform or space for the debate, discussion, and collaboration that are both inherent in and essential to the idea of the university. This space is multidimensional and has varying degrees of formality. It is to be found in the governance framework and networks; in campus assemblies, associations, and clubs; in classrooms, boardrooms, and common rooms; in myriad gatherings of university communities and individuals on and off campus; and in social media. Its dimensions are physical and hyper-physical, and it is pervasive.

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