As with the university, Quebecor Media quickly yielded to a mob of critics and removed Provost’s remarks. Journal de Québec Editor-in-Chief Sébastien Ménard said that Provost’s points “were inaccurate or could mislead the public.” Notably, Ménard did not seem compelled to address the alleged inaccuracies in the comments or Provost’s basis for raising his concerns.
Ménard did not seem to entertain the possibility that the media can be a place for the exchange of such ideas, including a rigorous debate challenging Provost’s assertions. Instead, the solution, once again, was censorship.
Most of Provost’s colleagues have said nothing in defense of an academic being denied the very freedom that defines and sustains our profession. One exception is Douglas Farrow, a professor of theology and ethics at McGill University in Montreal, who denounced the suspension as “A Repressive Political Act” in a Substack article.
To its credit, the Université Laval faculty union has filed a grievance on Provost’s behalf.
I recently wrote a column on our own struggle with cancel culture in George Washington University in the effort to bar Justice Clarence Thomas from teaching. To its credit, the university sided with academic freedom. However, as the column noted, most people do not have a seat on the Supreme Court to reinforce their academic positions.
Last week, my study on the decline of free speech at universities was published by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. The article entitled “Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States,” explores the anti-free speech movement in the United States and the increasingly common claim that free speech itself is harmful. This is another example of that trend in Canada. It is part of an existential struggle for all faculty and students over the purpose and future of higher education in both countries.