An analysis of the freedom of expression policy in higher education
Batra, Charanjeet Singh
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This study examines free speech policy in general and specifically the free speech policy at one institution of higher education in Ontario, Canada, in order to better understand the complex interconnectedness between human rights and freedom of expression. The detailed, rigorous analysis of free speech policy was guided by Pal’s (2014) policy analysis framework, which encourages investigations of the normative, legal, logical and empirical aspects of a policy. The normative policy aspects include basic values and ethical principals underlying free speech policy. Also included here are Rogers’ (1969, 1995) freedom to learn within the context of humanistic education theory. The legal aspects include an examination of human rights and legal rights in Canada and Ontario. Logical analysis considers the paradoxes such as the paradox of tolerance (e.g. Habermas, 2003). The empirical elements of this study include a survey of students at one university asking about free speech and empathy. Students were also invited to engage in a knowledge co-creation activity working in an online community. This policy analysis framework provided a comprehensive way to investigate free speech. One unique contribution of this research is its cross-disciplinary approach to existing fields such as policy, law, humanistic education and technology. It explored new hitherto less-investigated relationships of free speech with empathy. The findings of this study indicate that a cross-disciplinary approach provides a comprehensive lens to understand the complexities of free speech and to inform related education research and policy analysis.