Fundamental Commitment

As an institution of higher learning, McMaster University upholds a fundamental commitment to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for all its members. United in our pursuit of knowledge, our belief in the power and importance of education, and our determination to be an inclusive community, we support the rights and freedoms of members of our community to exchange ideas, question and challenge received wisdom, engage in respectful and informed debate, discuss even the most potentially controversial issues, and engage in peaceful protest and dissent.

In exercising these freedoms, all members of the University community are required to respect the rights and freedoms of others and are expected to engage with one another in a spirit of mutual respect, understanding, and regard for human dignity. While recognizing the imbalances in power that exist within our community and the disproportionate impact such imbalances have upon marginalized groups and individuals, McMaster aspires to be a place where respectful, meaningful discourse and discussion can occur, where all voices have an opportunity to be heard, and where diverse viewpoints can be advanced and deliberated in a spirit of inclusiveness and academic integrity.

Why Does This Matter?

As an academic community, it is crucial that McMaster be a place where a diverse range of opinions and perspectives can be held, and where respectful debate and critical enquiry can take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding. Throughout the history of our University we have advanced the boundaries of knowledge and learning through critical enquiry, discussion and debate, and this freedom to question, research and explore is fundamental to the discovery, communication and preservation of knowledge that is at the heart of our mission.

Academic Freedom

In addition to the overall commitment outlined above, McMaster’s faculty members enjoy the freedom, and the protection of the University, to pursue multiple avenues of inquiry, to teach and to learn unhindered by non-academic constraints, and to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion, including those that might be unpopular or even abhorrent. This is laid out in McMaster’s Statement on Academic Freedom, which also notes that faculty members bear the responsibility of exercising that freedom responsibly and professionally in order to further the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge.

While the rights of freedom of expression and free speech apply to all members of our community and to anyone expressing themselves as a private citizen, academic freedom is a privilege and a responsibility reserved for faculty members.

How Are These Freedoms Protected?

McMaster has a variety of policies, statements and other documents that outline the University’s commitment to these important freedoms and expectations for members of our community when exercising these freedoms. The policy framework is outlined in the summary document and this website gathers together the University’s policies and statements on freedom of expression and related matters and seeks to provide context and information about this critically important issue.