Freedom of Expression

Universities play a central role in providing a forum where ideas can be expressed, debated, and challenged, and where participants can gain insight and greater mutual understanding.

Through this role universities have contributed to a better appreciation of the world and have assisted people in learning about others' opinions, and debating key issues of the day.

The UBC Senates’ Statement on Academic Freedom reads:

The members of the University enjoy certain rights and privileges essential to the fulfilment of its primary functions: instruction and the pursuit of knowledge. Central among these rights is the freedom, within the law, to pursue what seems to them as fruitful avenues of inquiry, to teach and to learn unhindered by external or non-academic constraints, and to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion.

This freedom extends not only to the regular members of the University, but to all who are invited to participate in its forum. Suppression of this freedom, whether by institutions of the state, the officers of the University, or the actions of private individuals, would prevent the University from carrying out its primary functions.

All members of the University must recognize this fundamental principle and must share responsibility for supporting, safeguarding and preserving this central freedom. Behaviour that obstructs free and full discussion, not only of ideas that are safe and accepted, but of those which may be unpopular or even abhorrent, vitally threatens the integrity of the University’s forum. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated.

Balancing UBC’s commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression with our commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion is an ongoing process. UBC’s statement on Respectful Environment for Students, Faculty and Staff, outlines the university’s commitment to creating the best possible environment for working, learning and living where respect, civility, diversity, opportunity and inclusion are valued. 

Our core values are called out in our strategic plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century. They include a commitment to the principles of academic freedom, internationalization, global citizenship, equity, diversity, inclusion and maintaining a respectful environment, both among students, faculty and staff and in our commitment to educating future leaders. We value and celebrate all members of our community and we stand strongly behind advancing equity, diversity and inclusion, inviting people from around the world to study and work at UBC. To learn more about UBC’s resources to support equity, diversity and inclusion, click here.

UBC must be an open forum where members of the university have the freedom ‘to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion’. While engaging in such discussion, I encourage our students, faculty and staff to uphold the university’s values in creating a positive and respectful environment, even when considering opinions that may fundamentally differ from their own.

Andrew Szeri, Provost and Vice-President, Academic, UBC Vancouver

Advancing Academic Freedom

Learn about the positive obligations on the university and all its members to promote and protect academic freedom.

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Controversial Speakers

Learn more about the principles the university follows when external speakers apply to use space at UBC.

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UBC's Commitment to Equity

Learn more about UBC's core values and how the university is advancing equity, diversity and inclusion.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Review FAQs regarding freedom of expression and controversial speakers at UBC.

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Relevant Policies + Documents

Review statements and policies concerning academic freedom and freedom of expression.

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