|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
GRADE EXPLANATION: The University earns a C for its policies. There is a clearly stated commitment to free speech. The university has an anti-disruption policy which prohibits students (and other people) from blocking, obstructing, disrupting or interrupting speech (e.g. events, displays) on campus. The University has at least one speech code. The university provides funding and other resources to groups, departments, committees, commissions or other bodies that engage in ideological advocacy. The University earns a C for its practices. The University has not censored speech on campus, but its poor policy framework does not prevent censorship from occurring.
The stated mission of the University of Saskatchewan is “to achieve excellence in the scholarly activities of teaching, discovering, preserving and applying knowledge.”
The University also states that it “value[s] the freedom and independence to engage in the open pursuit of knowledge.”
The University lists “freedom of expression” as one of its six “Guiding Principles” in the Standard of Student Conduct in Non-Academic Matters:
Freedom of Expression: The University of Saskatchewan is committed to free speech as a fundamental right. Students have the right to express their views and to test and challenge ideas, provided they do so within the law and in a peaceful and non-threatening manner that does not disrupt the welfare and proper functioning of the University. The University encourages civic participation and open debate on issues of local, national and international importance. One person’s strongly held view does not take precedence over another’s right to hold and express the opposite opinion in a lawful manner.
Also listed as one of the “Guiding Principles” is “mutual respect and diversity” which includes “the rights and freedoms of all members of the University community to work and study free from discrimination and harassment”.
The University of Saskatchewan has a Gender Neutral Language policy requiring that “all official documents, publications and presentations are written in gender neutral and/or gender inclusive language.” This policy applies to “all University constituencies” including faculty and staff, but there is no specific reference to students. The Arts and Science Faculty, however, prohibits using the word “he” to refer to a person of either sex, requiring “he or she” instead. Similarly, words like “police man” must be replaced by “police officer”.
The University of Saskatchewan has a Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Services Coordinator, whose purpose is “[t]o provide students and employees with a positive environment for working and learning that is free of discrimination and harassment.” The Coordinator acts as a liaison for University officials, senior administrators, Student and Enrolment Services Division (SESD), and Human Resources (HR) by offering advice to those deliberating on matters involving employees or students of the University.
The authors are unaware of the University of Saskatchewan censoring speech, or discriminating against students or student clubs on the basis of the content of their expression.
GRADE EXPLANATION: The student union earns a B for its policies. The student union has an express commitment to free speech on campus; the student union has at least one speech code; the student union’s policies in regard to club certification do not enable unequal treatment of clubs based on beliefs and opinions; the student union’s rules and regulations for elections and referenda do not impose unfair restrictions on campaign speech and literature; the student union does not take political positions on issues outside its mandate. The student union earns a B for its practices for having not recently censored free speech on campus, and having a strong policy framework to prevent censorship from occurring.
The University of Saskatchewan Students Union (USSU) passed a new policy in 2013 that states unequivocally that the USSU upholds the free expression rights of students on campus. This Free Speech Policy, developed with input and advice from the Justice Centre, commits the USSU to refrain from content-based censorship against students and student groups. The Free Speech Policy reads:
…the Student Union will support and protect the free speech of all parties under its jurisdiction. The Student Union will not endeavor to limit or prevent the exercise of free speech on campus and will work to aid those parties whose free speech rights are threatened. The Union further recognizes the fair and reasonable limitations on free expression as stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code of Canada and pledges not to exercise censorship outside of these legal limits. When members of the Union use speech as a direct attack that has the effect of preventing the lawful exercise of speech by members or invited guests, or interfering with the conduct of authorized University business, the Student Union may intervene…
…The right to free speech is complemented by the right of freedom of association. The right to free speech extends to individuals cooperating in groups. All members have the freedom to communicate in any reasonable way, to hold and advertise meetings, to debate and to engage in peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, to organize groups for any lawful activities and to make reasonable use of Student Union facilities.
The USSU Campus Group Policy states in Article IV, Section 1:
In the event that a campus group engages in behaviour that is considered to be in violation of federal or provincial human rights laws, university policy, or is otherwise deemed to be unfit for an inclusive, welcoming, and open learning environment, the Union reserves the right to take action against said group. In particular, each student has the right not to be harassed or otherwise made to feel discomfort by another.
Section 3.1 of the USSU Campus Group Policy, governing club ratification, states:
The Club must intend to carry out activities that do not infringe any federal, provincial, municipal or university regulations and which will not interfere with the ordinary course of business at the university, nor infringe on the rights and privileges of others. This includes the rights of privacy and of freedom of expression.
USSU’s Space Rental Policy states that “[t]he USSU reserves the right to decide any point not covered in the above rules and further reserves the right to refuse any booking.” The Policy also requires that “offensive materials” will not be allowed on group table displays but does not qualify what is considered “offensive.” It further states “[r]espect for divergent points of view is expected at all times.”
The Poster Policy bans posters that contain “offensive language”.
The University of Saskatchewan Students for Life (USSL) was temporarily denied club status by the USSU in the fall of 2009, and reinstated only subject to conditions and restrictions not imposed on any other campus group. An article written on the incident discusses “mediation” meetings that the club executive had to attend with the Union before their club would be ratified:
The trio discussed complaints that had been lodged against the USSL during the 2008-2009 academic year. One complainant alleged that a USSL club member manning an information table “applauded” a woman who walked by with a child; another complainant alleged that the USSL (and other groups on campus) approached people who did not wish to be approached. Another complaint (brought forward by the Women’s Centre on behalf of an individual female) accused the pro-life group of making women feel “unsafe” by displaying “disturbing” graphic images without giving any prior warning to students. (The images were photographs of healthy, living babies, 'in utero' and up to two years old.)
The USSU allowed the USSL club to retain its official status on the condition that it inform the campus Women’s Centre of every public event it intended to put on, and refrain from using “offensive” or “graphic” pictures – a condition not imposed on any other campus club. Further, the club’s expression is required not to “incite anger” or “provoke” anyone. In April, 2011, USSL was able to host a lecture successfully, with Dr. Clement Persaud presenting to students on the subject of embryonic stem cells. Since 2011, USSL continues to be active on campus, hosting marches, documentaries and other events.