Memorial continues to respond to the appearance on the St. John’s campus of posters containing racist and anti-Islamic messages.
Initially, President Gary Kachanoski issued a strongly worded statement condemning the messages in the posters. Campus Enforcement and Patrol removed offensive posters and passed information to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for investigation.
“We are committed to providing a safe, respectful environment for all members of the campus community and will not tolerate hateful speech directed towards members of our community,” wrote Dr. Kachanoski on Oct. 8.
Guidelines being drafted
Since that time, the university has been drafting guidelines outlining poster regulations, requirements, approval process and enforcement. The goal is to ensure that posters do not conflict with Memorial’s values.
The university is also asking the community to discuss what constitutes free speech and what messages run contrary to community standards.
“This is not a rhetorical exercise.”
“Universities will always be places where difficult questions are asked and peer-reviewed research informs dialogue and points of view,” said Provost Noreen Golfman. “We must also ensure that the people who make up our community feel safe as they go about their work and study. Our Student Code of Conduct and our Respectful Workplace Policy outline the tenets of how we expect our community members to behave towards one another, and guidelines around posters will be an additional step in defining how that is administered.
“This is not a rhetorical exercise; people have been assaulted and killed for no reason other than their religion or their self-identity,” Dr. Golfman added. “The people who comprise our community deserve the right to feel safe as they go about their work and study.”
To help establish community standards, Dr. Golfman will ask Senate — the university’s academic governance body that includes students, faculty and administrators — to discuss the balance of free speech and harassment-free language and how that should be reflected in university guidelines.