|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
The Vision of Cape Breton University (CBU) states, “[our] faculty have the academic freedom and responsibility to share and pursue knowledge with integrity and passion.”
CBU’s Strategic Research Plan states, “CBU is committed to building a vibrant research culture, based on the principles of academic freedom, accountability, and ethics, that is held to the highest standards of integrity.” It further states, “Academic freedom to pursue what and how research is conducted, is a fundamental principle to building a strong research culture.”
CBU’s collective agreement with its faculty association also supports the ideal of academic freedom, as well as freedom of expression, in Article 12.1:
The common good of society depends upon the search for knowledge and its free expression. Academic freedom in universities is essential to both these purposes in the teaching function of the university as well as in its scholarship and research. Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of the individual; rather, academic freedom makes commitment possible.
CBU’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy defines “harassing behaviours” to include “offensive treatment,” “verbal abuse,” “unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendos or taunting” about a person’s “body, attire, age, marital status, ethnic or national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender,” “display of sexually explicit, racist or otherwise offensive” material, “practical jokes which cause awkwardness or embarrassment,” “intimidation,” and “offensive gestures”. The Policy goes on to define harassing behaviour as “behaviour which undermines another’s self-respect and/or which exhibits an air of superiority.” The Policy exempts “instructional processes” from its scope.
The authors are not aware of recent cases of Cape Breton University discriminating against students, faculty or invited guests based on the content of their speech.
The Cape Breton University Students’ Union (CBUSU) Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual states:
Any student or group within the Students’ Union membership shall be allowed to create, participate in, or otherwise form a society.
CBUSU’s Office Operations Policy prohibits the use of specific high-traffic spaces to promote “any materials which threaten, harass, or otherwise promote discrimination against any individual or groups within the CBU community and the community at large.”
The Office Operations Policy uses vague or ambiguous terms which could easily result in CBUSU officials censoring students and student groups on campus. For example, the Students’ Union does not define “discrimination” in any other policy or document, and also fails to adopt CBU’s definition, so a CBUSU official could create his own definition of “discrimination.”
Section 19 of CBUSU’s Office Operations Policy states:
Groups that represent a religious or political affiliation may not approach people walking through the Lobby and/or Commons. The person must make the decision to approach their tables to receive information.
Exactly what is considered political or religious is left undefined, meaning that any number of issue-centered groups could be subject to this policy. CBUSU therefore creates two “classes” of student groups: those whose message could be considered religious or political in nature, and those whose message is not considered religious or political in nature. The latter group has a clear advantage in spreading their message since they can use the high-traffic areas like the Lobby and the Commons, and can directly engage students in conversation about their issue or cause. But the former group is denied these important channels.
CBUSU’s Society Application and Regulations state as a condition of ratification that:
The society must not exclude any member of the Students’ Union based on the grounds of age, race, colour, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender, physical or mental ability, ethnic, national, or aboriginal origin, family status, marital status, source of income or political belief, association or anything that violates human rights.
The society’s activities must not infringe on the rights or privileges of others, which include the rights to privacy and freedom of expression and association.
The Society Application and Regulations further states that a society may be de-ratified if it “is guilty of any other conduct that the SRC deems as unbecoming of a CBUSU society.”
CBUSU officials have considerable discretion to restrict what they may consider “inappropriate” speech on campus. In the CBUSU Poster Policy it reads, “Posters seeking approval must not have any inappropriate imagery or text.”
The authors are not aware of the CBUSU actively discriminating against students, faculty or invited guests on campus based on the content of their speech.