|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
In regard to academic freedom, the University of the Fraser Valley’s (UFV) Statement of Institutional Ethics (22) states:
Members of UFV have academic and artistic freedom, which includes the freedom to investigate controversial views, to hold unpopular positions on controversial issues, and to present in class and in the wider community one’s controversial views.
Concerning the pursuit of truth, the Statement declares:
Members of UFV have a positive duty to ensure that our institution encourages students, faculty, staff and administrators to use their own best judgement in choosing what to investigate and in the pursuit of truth within their investigations. Students, in particular, have a right to be free from indoctrination and other forms of miseducation that fail to respect the autonomy of the student.
Concerning non-maleficence, the Statement says:
At UFV every effort is taken to avoid actions and policies that cause unnecessary harm to others...We strive to maintain an institution that is free of the harmful effects of racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry. If undue suffering has occurred, wherever possible we attempt to redress the harm. Further, we look very unfavourably on exploitation in all its forms.
UFV’s Board Policy on Academic Freedom reiterates the University’s commitment to free speech, albeit with some restrictions:
The university is committed to the belief that the exchange of knowledge and ideas in an environment of intellectual freedom is an indispensable foundation of quality education. Academic freedom is one means to ensure that an environment of intellectual freedom is sustained. Academic freedom includes the right of all members of the university community to inquire, discuss, speak and express themselves, study, conduct research, teach, publish, associate, create and exhibit their work without hindrance or restriction by the university or any of its representatives.
Notwithstanding the above, academic freedom does not entitle anyone from the university community to promote hatred or contempt for any social, national, or ethnic group; display incompetence in teaching or scholarship; or violate the human rights of others.
The Student Non-Academic Misconduct Policy (204) states:
Students shall not engage in activity that violates the Harassment Prevention policy; or engage in conduct that, although not based on the grounds specified by the Harassment Prevention policy, is abusive, demeaning, threatening, intimidating, racist, or involves the misuse of authority or power.
The University approved a Harassment Prevention Policy in September of 2012. The Policy simply obligates the University to create policies and procedures designed to prevent and resolve cases of harassment on campus. The administrative office that enforces the Policy is the Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Office (HRCRO).
Examples of personal harassment, according to the HRCRO, include “disparaging remarks about an individual,” and “excessively critical or disrespectful comments, actions or gestures. There is no statement in the Harassment Prevention Policy reiterating the University’s commitment to free speech above any interpretation of this document.
Academic freedom is not considered harassment, according to the Policy.
The HRCRO is only empowered to provide services and advice to complainants, to investigate claims, and to inform the Vice President (Employee Services) if action is required against the alleged harasser. Therefore, the HRCRO does not have the administrative power necessary to endanger free speech on campus. Nevertheless, the Office’s ambiguous definition of harassment vis-à-vis academic freedom and free expression should be corrected to better protect campus speech.
On March 20, 2013, the University of the Fraser Valley approved an event organized by the campus club UFV Life Link, featuring as speaker Mike Schouten of WeNeedaLaw, who planned to address the topic of “sex-selective” abortion and its frequency in some cultures. This event was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m. on the UFV Abbotsford campus.
On Friday, April 5, 2013, Jill Harrison, Manager of Student Life, informed UFV Life Link President Ashley Bulthuis that this event would be cancelled due to “security concerns” arising from the possible presence of protesters.
Leslie Courchesne, director of marketing and communications at UFV, said the event was not cancelled, but was postponed due to several reasons. She said Life Link had not disclosed that the event included an outside speaker and advertising. Courchesne added UFV administration was informed that a protest was planned in opposition to Schouten's speech.
"Due to the short notice, UFV did not have enough time to do a fulsome risk assessment to ensure the safety and security of our campus community and external visitors," stated Courchesne.
UFV Life Link proceeded to hold a private club meeting to take place with Schouten, held inside a room rather than a prominent location. Around 13 people attended, including UFV Student Union Society president Shane Potter.
UFV also threatened Life Link with censorship of the content of this event: UFV Life Link President Ashley Bulthuis was told that Student Life had “concerns” about the content of the literature that was to be placed on tables and distributed outside the room where the event was being held. Due to UFV’s attempted cancellation of this April 10 event, these censorship concerns were never settled.
In March, 2013, UFV’s Student Life office also prohibited Life Link from distributing the club’s materials in the hallways, a practice called “tabling”. Instead, the club was restricted to distributing its materials inside a room only – a restriction not placed on any other campus club. Due to UFV’s restriction, Life Link cancelled its planned literature distribution in March.
UFV’s Student Union Society (SUS) does not reference free expression in its mission statements.
Regarding elections for SUS Board and Council, the Elections Policy limits election speech by enforcing a $125 limit on campaign spending. Such spending includes printing, paper, poster materials, pamphlets, and other means of communication that end up restricting the number of people to which a candidate can spread his or her message.
The Elections Policy also regulates that campaign materials “must not bear defaming or inflammatory images or text.”
The SUS does not take formal positions on issues outside of its mandate.
The authors are not aware of the Student Union Society discriminating against students or student groups on the basis of their expression.
However, when the student group UFV Life Link had their March 2013 film screening event cancelled and literature censored by UFV Student Life, SUS failed to condemn the University for these blatant violations of its members’ right to free expression.