A fundraising campaign begun in opposition to an appearance by a speaker who supports white supremacy has raised more than $12,000 for scholarships for underrepresented students at the University of Waterloo, more than double its target.
The campaign was created by the university’s faculty association in response to the school agreeing to rent an event space on campus for a discussion between Faith Goldy, a white nationalist and supremacist activist who has appeared on neo-Nazi podcasts, and Ricardo Duchesne, a professor at the University of New Brunswick who claims that modern immigration is destroying the “European character” of Canada.
Organized by the Laurier Society for Open Inquiry (LSOI), a group co-founded by Lindsay Shepherd, the debate was cancelled when security costs reached $28,500.
Security costs are determined by police in Waterloo and communicated to the university who passes them on to organizers of non-university sponsored events, a university spokesperson said. Multiple campus and community groups were planning to protest the discussion.
“It is regrettable that we didn’t have a better handle on the costs beforehand,” said Nick Manning, the associate vice-president of communications at the University of Waterloo.
Organizers of the fundraising drive said they came up with the campaign because they wanted to avoid yet another debate about how free speech should be exercised on campus.
“We didn’t want the Streisand effect – when in protesting something, you give it more attention,” said Shannon Dea, a philosophy professor at the University of Waterloo and one of the organizers of the campaign. (In 2003, singer Barbra Streisand sued a California geographical company for publishing online photos of her house in Malibu, drawing thousands to gawk at aerial shots of the mansion).
Instead, the university’s faculty association began a GoFundMe page with some of the money going to the Collective Movement award. The $1,200 award recognizes an undergraduate student who is contributing to the African, Caribbean and Black communities in Canada, through extracurricular or volunteer involvement.
“I know lots of people who would despise this event, but would likely not go and protest, so I wanted to give [them] a chance to show some support,” said Bryan Tolson, the president of Waterloo’s faculty association and one of the organizers of the drive.
With the amount of donations continuing to climb, the association is now consulting with student groups to see where the need for student support is greatest.
“It would be excellent if multiple students could receive the Collective Movement scholarship,” said Victoria Rodney, a member of the black association for student expression (BASE). The group was planning to participate in a teach-in running parallel to the lecture. Along with other student groups, BASE asked the university not to allow such speakers on campus. “This is hate on campus,” Ms. Rodney said.
Ms. Goldy had been booked to speak at Wilfrid Laurier earlier this spring by the LSOI, but a fire alarm emptied the venue before she began.
The security costs are another way universities are trampling over free speech, the LSOI said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that announced it cannot afford to pay the costs of security. “This also continues to set a dangerous precedent of security concerns caused by the actions of protesters impeding upon the ability of individuals to express their views,” the statement said.
Wilfrid Laurier released a draft of its free speech statement this week, the result of a task force struck to examine the issue in the wake of the Shepherd debacle. The statement said the university embraces “inclusive freedom” – a definition of free speech that encourages free expression and protects the ability of those who may be marginalized to participate in all discussions.