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RSU hasn’t lobbied Rye on free speech

By Mina Alam and Sherina Harris

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) has not taken steps to lobby Ryerson University on its free speech policy.

“I have had very little conversation with the students union about this, and I’m always happy to have dialogue about what they think about,” said Ryerson University president Mohamed Lachemi.

“We engaged the rest of the community in consultation and discussion about the statement on freedom of expression including of students,” university president Mohamed Lachemi said, noting the vice-provost, students held two town halls with students in February.

At the RSU’s Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM) in November 2018, a motion was passed that the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) should reject the free speech mandate introduced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

“What should be independent institutions”

“We’re looking into it [as] something that we care about,” said RSU president Maklane deWever. “We’re focusing most of our lobbying efforts right now on cuts to [student loans],” he said.

He said presently the RSU hasn’t taken action to lobby Ryerson on free speech. However, he said the speech directive is part of an overall “attack on universities.”

Although he said the RSU is focused on mobilizing students against changes to tuition and loans, deWever said he agrees with the sentiment of the motion.

“I don’t think it’s proper for the provincial government to mandate in what should be independent institutions,” he said.

Lachemi said whether the RSU agrees with the government’s mandate or not, it’s important for Ryerson to have a freedom of expression statement.

“We’re focusing most of our lobbying efforts right now on cuts to [student loans]”

In August, Ford announced a directive that Ontario colleges and universities must comply with certain criteria for their free speech policy.

“This policy would require schools to police protests on campus and potentially threaten students…with disciplinary measures,” the SAGM motion said.

The motion required the RSU to oppose the government’s mandate and demand Ryerson administration refuse to implement restrictions on the right to protest.

Ryerson has been revising its free speech policy since August. The university did not move forward with the updated policy in November after student protests halted the meeting where it was to be voted on.

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