|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
The Values of Memorial University include:
Freedom and Discovery: Supporting the freedom to pursue knowledge that is based on individual and collective intelligence, curiosity, ingenuity and creativity.
Memorial University’s Student Code of Conduct (Code), passed in May of 2014, states in Article 6(a)(7):
While a university environment is one where freedom of speech is highly valued, students must adhere to provisions of the Human Rights Act, 2010 and discrimination is prohibited on the following grounds: race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, social origin, creed, religion, age, disability, disfigurement, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, family status, source of income and political opinion. Comments or action based on an individual’s association or relationship whether actual or presumed, with an individual or class of individuals identified above is also prohibited.
Further, Article 6(e) of the Code includes as an offence the disruption of University and student-organized events:
e) Offences involving disruption include:
…4) Acting, threatening or otherwise causing a disturbance that obstructs any activity organized by the University or by any of its faculties, schools, departments or divisions, clubs, societies or resource centres, or the rights of a member of the University community to carry on her or his legitimate activities, to speak to or associate with others.
Students and members of the University community enjoy the freedom to pursue their intellectual and personal interests without interference. The objectives of the University are the pursuit of learning through scholarship, teaching and research within a spirit of free enquiry and expression. The University recognizes academic freedom and the right to free speech, creative expression and peaceful protest, acknowledging that the common good of society depends upon the search for knowledge and its free expression.
The following are not considered Disruption in accordance with this section:
- Peaceful assemblies, demonstrations, picketing or other activity outside a class or meeting that does not substantially interfere with the communication inside, or impede access to the meeting or class.
• Silent or symbolic protest.
However, noise that obstructs the conduct of a meeting or class, or forcibly blocking access to an activity constitutes Disruption under this Code.
Memorial University does not have a policy expressly preventing the University from charging security fees to students hosting discussions or lectures on controversial subjects.
On Thursday, September 25, 2014, MUN Campus Chaplaincy and the Counselling Center in partnership with the Christian Medical and Dental Association presented two lectures from Dr. Martha Shuping on post-abortion mental health issues. The lecture prompted protest from a St. John’s pro-choice group, Voices for Choice, and several faculty and staff.
A representative for Voice for Choice stated in the media that, “[b]y having a demonstration and a talk in our school that is a pro-life message, that’s a form of advocacy,” and, “[pro-life] views have the power to inform policy and policy changes laws and access to abortion services.”
Amidst pressure from faculty and the public, the director of the Counselling Centre, Dr. Peter Cornish, wrote a public letter wherein he stated “[a]s an academic unit, we are committed to academic freedom and the support of diverse views, values and evidence-based practice.” Further,
Two weeks ago I was approached with an offer from Dr. Shuping to share, at no expense to us, her clinical psychiatric expertise and knowledge on supporting the mental health needs of women who have exercised their choice to obtain an abortion. Initially, she offered only to speak to our clinical team. Because part of our mandate is to encourage open discussion on difficult topics and choices facing students, we decided to open the event to the public. We wanted to be sure that critical voices could be heard and that we, as a centre and university, could benefit from the wisdom of all voices on this emotionally charged topic. In hindsight, I am very glad that we did open this presentation to the public, because the one-sided presentation she provided warrants a critical analysis and further discussion on campus.
Section 11(B) of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union (MUNSU) Bylaws requires clubs to include all MUNSU members, regardless of whether their beliefs are in line with the mission and values of the group. Section 11(E)(4) further states “[t]he MUN Students’ Union will not recognize or ratify any group that the Board of Directors considers to be of a homophobic, transphobic, racist, ageist, ableist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory or exclusionary nature.” There is no policy expressly committing MUNSU to uphold campus free speech rights, and there are no speech codes in the MUNSU election policies and procedures.
Section 11(E)(4) was not used in order to ban the pro-life club MUN Students for Life (see section 4 below); that particular ban was based on MUN’s association with the Canadian Federation of Students, which holds a pro-choice stance in its Declaration of Student Rights and does not allow member Student Unions to endorse opposite stances.
MUNSU takes stances on issues not directly related to its mandate, including fair trade coffee, pay equity, the environment, unionization and sweatshops.
In October of 2013, MUNSU’s Student Activities and Organizations Committee voted to deny ratification to a student group because of its support for Greek-Letter Organizations (GLOs), or fraternities and sororities. MUNSU’s position on GLOs has been to oppose their existence at MUN.
The Greek-Lettered Council (GLC) is a group created in November 2012 that aims to promote, offer resources to, and serve as a platform to Greek-Lettered organizations such as fraternities and sororities at MUN, while also serving and being open to the community as a whole.
One MUNSU councillor, Ryan Murphy, summarized his opposition to the GLC as follows:
There is empirical evidence that indicates a link between Greek Lettered Organizations, sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment, bystander passivity…By working to recognize a Greek letter organization on campus you are systemically increasing the risk of a student dealing with one of those issues…I cannot vote to recognize this, because I believe that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, something’s going to happen, and I’m going to see a headline, and I’m going to hate myself forever.
In 2013, a MUNSU executive made comments indicating that MUNSU maintains its practice of censoring campus clubs, like it did in 2007 when it denied ratification to a campus pro-life club (see below). In the campus newspaper, The Muse, MUNSU Director of External Affairs Candace Simms said:
MUNSU affirms the necessity of free speech in a democratic society; however, it is also the responsibility of the elected Board of Directors to ensure members feel safe and welcome on our campus. As a result, MUNSU reviews clubs and societies on an annual basis, and groups that infringe on the rights of members or contravene the policies and bylaws voted on by the Board cannot be ratified.
On October 3, 2012, MUNSU was to host its annual Global Citizens’ Forum, a lecture on social justice issues, featuring guest speaking Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians. Barlow cancelled her lecture on October 2, and MUNSU cancelled her flight, to show solidarity with striking airport workers at St. John’s International Airport.
Candice Simms, MUNSU’s Director of Advocacy, said to The Muse: “We supported her decision based on the historical ties between the students movement and the labour movement[....]Whether it’s campaigns for accessible education or lobbying for grants not loans, the labour movement has been there for us.”
Members of MUNSU voiced their opposition to the decision of MUNSU’s Board of Directors to endorse the striking workers, with some stating that as a non-profit organization and students’ union, MUNSU should only take stances directly related to student life.
In 2007, the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union denied the ratification of a campus pro-life group, MUN for Life, because MUN for Life espouses a view different from the official pro-choice position of MUNSU. Neither MUN for Life nor any of its members were ever accused of violating any rules, regulations or policies of the University or of MUNSU.