Free Expression: Law, Philosophy, Policy, and Politics
Most of my research revolves around free expression in its various legal, philosophical, policy, and political dimensions. I'm currently working on a postdoctoral research project that examines the law and politics of extending constitutional protections for expression (i.e. the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) to university campuses. This work is divided into two smaller projects: 1) an examination of expressive limits on campus in law and policy, including relevant case law; and 2) a comparative analysis of American and Canadian case law on student codes of conduct and student disciplinary proceedings.
In the contemporary moment, free expression looms large. Particularly on university campuses, there has been an impressive cadence of controversies over the past decade. While criticism of contemporary higher education has always been a pillar of the still smoldering culture wars, the issue has now moved from op-ed pages to official government policy. Following the election of Conservative provincial governments in Ontario (2018) and Alberta (2019), post-secondary institutions in these provinces have now been compelled to create explicit policy statements protecting free expression. Despite a wealth of research about freedom of expression on American college and university campuses, Canada is still relatively understudied. My research addresses this gap with a novel blending of political theory and philosophy with empirical data gathering.
At a general level, the focus of my dissertation was trying to understand the political contours of free expression on campus and how and why free expression became one of the most noticeable fractures in contemporary campus politics (and in academia more broadly). I used a qualitative, mixed-methods approach that includes: reviews of relevant literature, legal analysis, media analysis, semi-structured personal interviews, and freedom of information requests. Primary data collection included over 80 interviews with students, faculty, administrators, journalists, pundits, and activists, and several thousands of pages of records gleaned from freedom of information requests.
I'm currently expanding upon this research for a book manuscript under contract with University of Toronto Press. This project includes some key pieces of my PhD dissertation, along with some new data and analysis. Seeking to bridge the academic / non-academic divide, the book will equally appeal to academic audiences and general interest readers that would like to better understand the politics of free expression in Canadian higher education.
Lastly, I have an additional research project focused on the politics of (alternative) sport and (Sub)Cultural Studies. In this work, I explore a number of themes related to skateboarding subculture: the concept of subcultural escapism and the political significance of alternative forms of meaning; how film has been significant in the development of skateboarding subculture; and the potential ramifications of skateboarding becoming a 'sport' at the Olympic Games.