Roundtable Discussion of the response by SAFS (Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship) to university COVID policies.
Led by Bruce Pardy (Law, Queen’s University), featuring David Haskell (Communication, Wilfred Laurier University) and William McNally (Finance, Wilfrid Laurier University).
Part of the 2022 Annual General Meeting for the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship.
A summary by Bruce Pardy of his portion of the presentation (beginning at the 31:03 mark) follows below. The video segment Bruce appears in is impaired by poor microphone performance, hence the summary!
Academic freedom and “free speech” encompass the right to be free from censorship and compulsion – the right to say what you think and not to say what you do not believe. Freedom of expression has been described as the most important liberty. But it is not more important than bodily autonomy, including the right to refuse medical treatment, for without it we lose the right to govern our own bodies, and with it, control over health decisions.
Rights are not absolute but limited by the rights of others. Speech that threatens imminent violence is an assault, for example. But rights must not be curbed on the grounds of an amorphous “common good”, for that provides authorities with the power to restrict liberties at their discretion and on the thinnest of pretenses.
Vaccine mandates interfere with bodily autonomy but refusing to take a vaccine infringes the rights of no one. People do not have a legal right to be protected from respiratory viruses. If they did, the law would already be full of restrictions to prevent the spread of colds, the flu, and the many other viruses to which we are commonly exposed. And yet, during COVID, many universities made vaccination mandatory.