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Mount Royal University (MRU) passed an Academic Freedom policy in 1993, which states:
The common good of society depends upon the search for knowledge and its free exposition. Academic freedom in educational institutions is essential to both these purposes in the teaching function of the institution as well as in its scholarship and research.
Academic staff shall not be hindered or impeded in any way by the institution or the faculty association from exercising their legal rights as citizens, nor shall they suffer any penalties because of the exercise of such legal rights. Academic members of the community are entitled, regardless of prescribed doctrine, to freedom in carrying out research and in publishing the results thereof, freedom of teaching and of discussion, freedom to criticize the University and the faculty association, and freedom from institutional censorship.
Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of the individual. Rather, academic freedom makes commitment possible. Academic freedom carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base research and teaching on an honest search for knowledge.
In exercising the freedom to comment and criticize, academic staff members have a corresponding obligation to use academic freedom in a responsible manner. This implies a recognition of the rights of other members of the academic community, and a tolerance of differing points of view.
Section A(5) of MRU’s Code of Student Conduct states:
Mount Royal values the rights and freedoms of the individual and protection against discrimination or harassment for each person. As such, students can expect the following rights, freedoms and values to be fostered and promoted:
(a) Legal Rights: Students enjoy the rights and freedoms recognized by law subject only to such restrictions on those rights and freedoms as are necessary to ensure the advancement of the community values inherent in this Code.
(b) Freedom from Discrimination: Discrimination at Mount Royal on the basis of race, ancestry, religious beliefs, physical disability, marital status, colour, place of origin, gender, mental disability, family status, source of income, age and sexual orientation is prohibited.
(c) Freedom from Harassment and Sexual Harassment: Mount Royal’s Human Rights Policy strives to create an atmosphere intended to remain free from behaviour which is reasonably interpreted as unwelcome including, but not limited to, remarks, jokes or actions which demean another person and/or deny individuals their dignity and respect.
(d) Positive Academic Environment: Mount Royal students participate in an environment that supports intellectual inquiry as well as the exchange and examination of diverse ideas. These activities are to take place in an orderly manner in and outside of the classroom and in an environment that is protected through the governing documents of Mount Royal.
(e) Discipline: Students at Mount Royal can expect that contraventions of this Code and other relevant documents will be dealt with in a timely manner under the policies and procedures determined by the governing bodies of the Mount Royal.
Section D(1) of the Code makes clear that “[t]he Code of Student Conduct supersedes all other policies, rules or regulations to the extent of any overlap.” Section D(8) defines Non-Academic Misconduct as “any behaviour or pattern of behaviour” which “adversely affects the learning of others, Mount Royal, or its educational mission,” “violates established civil and criminal statutes,” “threatens the safety or well-being of members of the Mount Royal community” or “violates the ethical standards set by a professional association.”
The Student Conduct Guide provides examples of non-academic misconduct including:
disrupting a class in such a way that interferes with the formal process of the session or the learning of other students;
verbal assault, defamation, discrimination, retaliation or harassment towards others;
dissemination of malicious material which creates a climate that hinders or prevents the full participation of another person or group in the life of the University;
intentionally, negligently or recklessly endangering the wellbeing of any individual or intentionally, negligently or recklessly interfering with any University activity or
University sponsored activity;
disorderly conduct on University premises or at University sponsored activities; and
MRU’s Office of Student Conduct (OSC) describes its purpose as follows:
The objective of the OSC is to work collectively with faculty and other resources across campus to educate students about academic integrity, respect for others, and the importance of upholding the fundamental values of Honesty, Trust, Fairness, Respect and Responsibility. These values are the basis for the Mount Royal Code of Student Conduct.
The OSC also “[assists] the Mount Royal community with interpreting the Code of Student Conduct” and pledges to be “[n]eutral when providing support and advice to students and faculty.”
The Human Rights Policy’s “Guideline and Procedure for Competing Rights” outlines the principles by which the policy will interpret claims of rights’ violations against competing rights’ violation claims. Section C(2) of the Guidelines state “There is no hierarchy of human or Charter rights. When the protected rights of two individuals or groups come into conflict a balance must be achieved that fully respects the importance of both sets of rights.” Section C(4) further states:
Academic freedom does not imply the right to engage in any action that demeans the freedom or dignity of other individuals in the campus community.
In deciding whether a competing rights’ claim is “legitimate” the Guideline states that “context” should be considered when seeking a resolution:
Do claims fall within the scope of the right when defined in context? For example, breadth of the right to freedom of expression as it relates to communicating offensive language will vary depending on the context. For example, in media commentary, the right might be interpreted very broadly, but in a classroom or workplace it may be interpreted more narrowly.
The Offensive/Discriminatory Materials Policy defines such materials as those which contravene:
(a) The Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act, which states, in part:
“No person shall publish issue or display or cause to be published, issued or displayed before the public any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that:
(i) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a class of persons;
(ii) is likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status of that person or class of persons.”
In February 2013, Nicholas MacLeod was peacefully distributing pro-life literature in a building on campus when confronted by MRU security guard Jeff Beddome, who ordered Nicholas to stop immediately, because Beddome considered the literature to be “offensive.” Nicholas initially refused to stop distributing his pamphlets, but then agreed to leave on condition that he could retrieve his jacket from a locker, as it was a very cold winter evening. Beddome and other security guards tried to force Nicholas to leave the building without permitting him to retrieve his jacket, which was in a nearby locker. The security guards assaulted Nicholas, forced him to the ground, hand-cuffed him, and confined him to a small room for several hours, with his hands still cuffed painfully behind his back. Nicholas had video-recorded the incident on his cell phone, but one of the MRU guards removed the SD memory card from Nicholas’ cell phone. That guard was later charged with theft, and admitted in court to having taken this evidence.
On behalf of Nicholas, the Justice Centre requested an apology from MRU, appropriate compensation for physical and psychological suffering endured by Nicholas, and revisions to campus security policies and training. MRU rejected this proposal in its entirety, making court action necessary.
In 2015, the court action settled without continuing further to trial. MRU president Dr. David Docherty apologized to Nicholas for the behaviour of MRU security guards, their unnecessary use of force, the unlawful detention, and the violation of Charter rights. In his letter of apology, Dr. Docherty stated that “supplemental training will be conducted to ensure that community officers understand the interaction between the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and their duties in maintaining a safe campus environment.”
The Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) lists as its Values and Beliefs:
Learning goes beyond the classroom, contributing to the realization of aspirations.
Community is built on individual relationships and shared resources.
Our autonomy makes it possible to respond to the needs of our members.
Our integrity requires accountability, openness, responsible stewardship, and ethical governance.
Diversity makes our community stronger and more vibrant.
Fun is essential to creativity, engagement, and social development.
SAMRU’s stated Vision is “Where every student can discover themselves, build meaningful relationships and make a difference in the world.”
In SAMRU’s Clubs Manual the following standards must be met before student clubs may be ratified. Standards include:
The student club must have a common purpose or mandate which serves some or all of the Mount Royal University student community. This purpose must also serve the general welfare of students and is consistent with the principles established by the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University in its bylaws, policies, and procedures.
The student club must have at least 10 members and these must be current students of Mount Royal University;
The student club must not limit or discriminate membership on any basis except that members must be current students of Mount Royal University;
Regarding posters, the Clubs Manual states that “[a]dvertising materials deemed inappropriate or offensive will not be approved.”
Section 2 of the Club Policy gives discretion to the SAMRU Board of Directors to de-ratify student groups on virtually any ground:
The Board has the authority to de-ratify clubs if they fail to meet the standards of this policy, Clubs Procedures or any and all relevant provincial and federal legislation and Students’ Association bylaws, policies and procedures and for any reason deemed important to protect the interests of the Students’ Association, Mount Royal or the general welfare of students.
A related document, the Club Procedures was updated in August of 2014. Additional requirements for club ratification are listed including:
The student club’s purpose must be any benevolent, philanthropic, charitable, provident, scientific, artistic, literary, social, educational, agricultural, sporting or other useful purpose, but not for the purpose of carrying on a trade or business.
The purpose of the club must not duplicate the purpose of an existing club.
The Club Ratification Committee has the authority to determine whether a new club’s purpose differs substantially from an existing club and to approve or disapprove ratification based on this assessment.
Section 6.3 of the Procedures governs the posting of advertising and display materials for clubs. It states that “[t]he SAMRU will prevent the distribution of any club advertising, promotions and communications that can be reasonably assumed to be discriminatory, as defined by the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.”
SAMRU’s Activity Application & Agreement Form requires student clubs planning a “Lecture, Demonstration, Meeting or Guest Speaker” to provide information prior to venue booking which includes the topic of discussion, name of guest speaker, whether or not parties which “could be impacted” by the event have been contacted, whether Campus Security and SAMRU public relations have been informed, and whether a “security plan is in place.”
Following several complaints from students and faculty over what was deemed “offensive” content in the February 2, 2012, issue of the student newspaper The Reflektor, namely, a photo of a woman consuming a banana, SAMRU Vice President – External, Michelle Dennis wrote the following letter to the paper:
The Reflector is a separately-incorporated Society housed in Wyckham House as a tenant of SAMRU only. As a Board member, I am not involved in the Reflector’s content but feel the need to respond based on the overwhelming amount of complaints coming from SAMRU’s membership. Intentional or not, the commentary published in Vanessa Gillard’s sex column in the February 2nd edition is offensive to some students as expressed in written concern to the Reflector. The Reflector has heard my recommendation to retract the piece, make an apology to those offended and consider the student’s feedback when making future content decisions. The Students’ Association fosters a community of respect, integrity and diversity on campus and as such, expect that enterprises that collect mandatory fees from the student body will live up to these principles as well.