The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms brings you the 2020 Campus Freedom Index, a report measuring the state of free speech at 61 Canadian public universities.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms brings you the 2020 Campus Freedom Index. Based on the maxim “If it matters, measure it,” this annual report arose in response to the growing problem of censorship on campus, with the first edition released in 2011. Using objective and transparent criteria, the Index awards letter grades of ‘A’ to ‘F’ to universities and also to student unions, to measure their performance in upholding free speech on campus.
In addition to providing students, parents and the public with information about the state of free speech at Canada’s 61 public universities, the 2020 Campus Freedom Index also analyzes the mission, vision, and values statements of 61 public postsecondary institutions. While 69% of Canadian universities include a commitment to “diversity” and “inclusion” in their mission, vision, or values statements, only 21% bother with expressly committing themselves upholding free expression and open inquiry.
This year’s report resulted in 242 grades awarded to 61 campuses. Separate grades are given to universities and to student unions, with distinct grades given for policies and for practices. Only six universities earned an ‘A’ grade in 2020, but this was a slight improvement from 2019, when only four universities received an ‘A’ grade. Only one student union earned an ‘A’ grade in 2020, a figure unchanged from 2019.
On the other hand, 13 universities earned at least one ‘F’ grade in the 2020 Campus Freedom Index, up from eight in 2019. A whopping 23 student unions earned at least one ‘F’ grade, up almost double, from 13 student unions in 2019.
Overall there was a small increase in the number of ‘A’ grades, but a much larger increase in ‘F’ grades. While more universities publicly defended freedom of expression this year when faced with calls to cancel events or engage in censorship; more universities also engaged in censorship.
The Campus Freedom Index includes a review of the audited financial statements of 61 public postsecondary institutions. Canadian universities received approximately $15.7 billion taxpayer dollars in the 2019-20 academic year. On average, 43 percent of a university’s revenue comes in the form of government grants. This means that all Canadians are stakeholders in the postsecondary education system, and have an investment in whether our universities uphold freedom of expression or engage in censorship.
CampusFreedomIndex.ca enables students, professors and concerned citizens to take action and fight back against campus censorship. Our Resisting Censorship on Campus brochure explains the legal basis for students’ free speech rights on campus, and the processes by which students can assert their legal rights in the face of censorship by their university or student union. This resource also encourages students to contact the Justice Centre for pro bono legal advice and assistance. Take a look at Resisting Censorship on Campus here.