|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
The mission statement of St. Thomas University (STU) contains the following commitment:
… to preserve the tradition of academic freedom. We seek to provide learning and working atmosphere that is free of discrimination, injustice, and violence, and that is responsive, understanding, open and fair. STU’s Student Code of Conduct exclusively focuses on student relations with the faculty and staff, and provides safety rules that students are expected to follow.
STU has a Harassment & Discrimination Policy for Faculty and Staff, and another for students. Both policies support academic freedom and free expression:
The University is committed to academic freedom and to freedom of expression and association. Neither this Policy in general, nor its definitions in particular, is to be applied in such a way as to detract from the right of students to engage in free inquiry and open discussion of potentially controversial matters.
St. Thomas University does not have a policy expressly compelling STU to intervene to ensure controversial events are not disrupted by protesters, nor does it have policies which charge security fees to students hosting events on controversial subject matter.
In March 2009, a former Israeli political advisor named Dr. Josef Olmert came to STU to give a speech and take questions. Olmert was invited by the STU Political Science Society. The Vice-President Academic of STU gave a warning prior to the event that there could and would be disciplinary actions to those who would interrupt and obstruct the speaker in an inappropriate manner. STU’s pre-emptive action to ensure Olmert’s lecture could proceed without incident is testament to the school’s commitment to free speech.
Despite this warning, and in spite of campus security escorting several protestors out of the auditorium, reports of the event indicated that protestors were so unruly during the talk that they impaired the ability of the audience to hear the presentation. But STU security personnel should have anticipated a higher volume of disruptive behaviour and have prepared accordingly.
Part I, Section 6 of the of the STU Students’ Union’s (STUSU) General Policy commits STUSU to refrain from interfering with its independent student press:
S.6. The Students’ Union support an autonomous and self-sustaining campus media, and shall not infringe upon the independence of The Aquinian, Inc., CHSR-FM, and any other recognized student campus media publication.
Part VI - S.4. states that “[t]he Students’ Union shall not endorse any political party, though it may, as a matter of policy, endorse specific proposals or principles.” Section 5 states that “[t]he Students’ Union and affiliated organizations shall not accept advertising which is discriminatory in nature, nor shall they accept advertising from persons or organizations promoting discrimination or hate.”
In October of 2012, STUSU Vice President for Student Life, Nicole Pozer, resigned from her position on the STUSU executive. Pozer cited feeling “undervalued” by her colleagues and decided to resign after receiving a letter from fellow STUSU executives asking her to resign.
Meredith Gillis, then a reporter with the student newspaper The Aquinian, wrote coverage of the resignation in several articles where she alleged the resignation was a result of practical jokes laid on Pozer by her fellow STUSU executives over the course of her term. Both STUSU and Pozer denied this claim, and many representatives on the Student Representatives Council (SRC) and the STUSU executive accused Gillis of using inappropriate sources, and citing rumour as fact.
Then-STUSU president John Hoben, and the SRC, demanded an apology from The Aquinian for its reporting of STUSU events that year, including the Pozer controversy. Editor-in-Chief Liam McGuire refused to apologize, stating that Gillis was simply reporting the facts as she understood them. STUSU unsuccessfully tried to amend the language of STUSU’s media fee, which provides funding to The Aquinian, so that STUSU could give the fee to other media organizations if it so chooses. STUSU then ceased its demand for an apology.