|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
To meet its obligations mandated by the Ontario government, in December 2018, Laurentian University enacted a new Policy on the Freedom of Speech (Freedom of Expression) which states:
Laurentian University’s commitment to, and definition of, freedom of expression includes the free exchange and expression of ideas, knowledge, perspectives and views which is fundamental to the advancement of learning and the dissemination of knowledge. The concept of free speech is part of Laurentian University’s definition of Freedom of Expression.
At Laurentian University, the free exchange and expression of ideas, knowledge, perspectives and views is included in but not limited to various university documents. For example, academic freedom is defined as the right to search for truth, knowledge and understanding and to express freely what one believes. The University as an institution and the community of its scholars have a duty to protect and defend the search for knowledge and truth by all that enquire. This includes contributing to social change through free expression on matters of public interest, without being censored, impeded or hindered.
A free exchange and expression of ideas, knowledge, perspectives and views will inevitably expose community members and visitors to opinions and ideas that they may disagree with or find challenging and offensive.
Exposure to disagreeable and challenging views or opinions can be expected in promoting and supporting the free expression of ideas, knowledge, perspectives and views. Laurentian University remains committed to maintaining a respectful workplace and learning environment that prohibits all forms of discrimination and harassment. It is the responsibility of our community members and visitors to foster a free exchange of ideas including a discussion of differing views and to avoid discrimination. As well, members of the university community and visitors have the responsibility to uphold each individual’s right to participate, learn and work in an environment that promotes equal opportunities.
Laurentian University’s existing policies as well as existing collective agreements may be applied where conduct is found to have significantly interfered with the ability of an event or activity involving free expression to proceed. Student associations are encouraged to integrate Laurentian University’s policies into their own.
While recognizing and respecting every individual’s right to freedom of expression, Laurentian University has an obligation to manage a University related event or activity where it is reasonably believed there is a risk of injury or that it may violate applicable law.
The Senate of Laurentian University passed a Statement of Students Rights and Responsibilities in 1998 which states:
Laurentian University’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities defines misconduct to include:
[Engaging in] language or behavior that causes one or more persons to fear on reasonable grounds for their safety or the safety of persons known to them, and/or adversely affect their freedom to participate in the University’s activities.
The Code further states that the University’s commitment to academic freedom does not supersede provisions of this Code:
The University is committed to promoting and respecting academic freedom. The University shall act to safeguard this principle as long as it does not violate the provisions of this Code. Students have the right to express their views in a responsible and ethical manner.
Laurentian’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy prohibits “Human Rights Harassment,” which is defined as follows:
“Human Rights Harassment” means a course of vexatious comments or conduct that is known to be or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome/unwanted and that is based on race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences (in employment only), marital status, family status or disability as defined by the Code. A single act of sufficient severity may also be found to constitute harassment.
The Policy further states that “All individuals have a responsibility to ensure the workplace and learning environment is a safe and healthy environment free from Discrimination and Harassment.”
There are no recent incidents of the University censoring free expression on campus.
In September of 2007, Laurentian University’s Senate voted to condemn the suggested boycott of Israeli universities by Britain’s University and College Union. The University released a statement which read “Laurentian upholds the fundamental principle of freedom of speech and enquiry, and defends the open exchange of ideas among academics.” It further stated:
President Dr. Judith Woodsworth joins her voice to other university presidents and chancellors world-wide in expressing disapproval of the boycott: “I believe that the freedom to debate ideas, to listen and to learn from the views of others, is fundamental to the very existence of universities, and is more likely, in a pluralistic world, to resolve conflicts and lead to mutual understanding, than simply closing down dialogue,” she stated. “Laurentian is committed, on its campus, to maintaining the freedom of individuals to study, teach and do research in a climate free of harassment, intimidation or discrimination, and regardless of anyone’s political opinions about the policies and practices of particular national governments.”
By-Law C-3 of the Laurentian University Students’ General Association (SGA) states:
By-Law C-4 of the SGA states, “[clubs] may be disciplined for…Practices which are determined by the Board to be neglectful or dangerous in nature.”
SGA’s Bylaw D-3, governing Campaigning during Elections, requires “All materials suggesting a preference for, or against a candidate must be approved by the CRO.”
SGA’s By-Law F-2, governing Referenda, states that “All materials must be approved by the CRO.
All students of Laurentian University are eligible for Club membership. A Club will be permitted to restrict its membership only in a limited number of cases where such limitation is necessary to avoid a complete undermining of the Club’s mandate. All restrictions must be approved by the SGA Executive.
The authors are not aware of the SGA discriminating against students or student groups because of their views.