|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
There is no mention of free expression or academic freedom in the mission, vision or values statements of the University of Waterloo (UW).
In Policy 33: Ethical Behaviour, the UW states that “the right of individuals to advance their views openly must be upheld throughout the University.”
Policy 33 states that “free debate may from time to time include the presentation or discussion of unpopular opinions or controversial material”, however this must be done as “openly, respectfully and sensitively as possible”.
Policy 33 defines discrimination as any violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code and harassment as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome.” Further, Policy 33 is violated by creating a “poisoned environment,” defined as one that is “intimidating, hostile or offensive”.
The Guidelines on use of Computer and Networking Services states “Waterloo values and strives to provide its members with an environment of free inquiry and expression. Freedom of expression and academic freedom in electronic format have the same latitude as in printed or oral communication.”
Policy 2 – Bulletin Boards, Temporary Signs and Notices states that the “President or his delegate reserves the right to instruct the removal of any notice or sign considered to be objectionable.”
The UW has no public policies empowering officials to charge security fees for controversial events. However, in a media story reporting on the security fees charged to a campus pro-life club in order to hold an event in March 2016, a UW media spokesperson explained that:
the process of putting in provisions [like security fees] is “nothing new,” and is a practice that’s been in effect for other high profile events.
The UW has no policies prohibiting disruption of university authorized functions and events.
In an event titled, “Abortion: A Human Right or Human Rights Violation?” UW’s pro-life club, Students for Life (UWSFL), invited pro-life advocate Maaike Rosendal, of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, to speak at SLC Great Hall, an area on campus. The day before the event, which was to be held March 24, 2016, the club received an email from Sian E. Williams, an associate university secretary and senior legal counsel, notifying them that the event could no longer be held unless certain precautions and provisions were met.
UWSFL president Josh MacMillan stated to campus media that the email stated the event hadn’t been approved by FedS, the student union, and that the event be held at 1 p.m. instead of at noon as originally planned. Additionally, the university asked that UWSFL provide $300 in security fees, based on $100 per hour for security services of two guards being present for a minimum of three hours.
MacMillan replied to Williams, stating that the university’s demands amounted to censorship. UWSFL proceeded with their event at the originally planned time and without paying security fees. The event proceeded without interference.
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth was invited to speak at the University of Waterloo on March 13, 2013, about his Motion 312 in Parliament, calling for a re-examination of the 400-year-old definition of a human being in the Criminal Code of Canada. He only got through a third of his presentation before loud chanting and yelling, some by characters in costumes, prevented him from being heard any further.
UW campus security was present but refused to take any kind of action to uphold the rights Mr. Woodworth to express his views, and allowed protesters to shut down the event.
Stephen Woodworth returned to Waterloo campus on November 14, 2013, and his lecture was able to proceed without disruption, thanks in part to the large presence of campus security, and the requirement that attendees to the event be pre-listed for entry.
On International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012, author Inga Muscio was invited to speak by the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG), a student-run organization paid for by all students through an opt-out fee attached to tuition (more information on this can be found at http://wpirg.org/about/). Several days before March 8th, WPIRG had reserved a place for a workshop. Upon arrival of the speaker and guests, the room was discovered to be locked. A UW staff member explained that another group had reserved the room, although the room was empty and a booking by WPIRG had been made in advance. The same staff member stated that the speaker “should be ‘embarrassed’ by her book”, entitled Cunt: A Declaration of Independence. Moreover, promotional posters were removed beforehand by UW staff because of the use of the word “cunt.”
On November 12, 2010, author and (then) Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford was to speak at a UW public lecture hall about her book, “Helpless,” regarding a Six Nations reserve in Caledonia, Ontario, its occupation of a construction site, and the government’s inaction.
Students picketed at the lecture hall prior to Blatchford’s arrival, and then several protesters occupied the stage to prevent Ms. Blatchford from speaking, resulting in cancellation of the talk that night. Campus Security stood by and watched the disruption and forced cancellation of a University event, failing to remove the protesters.
A rescheduled event a month later went on unhindered and drew ten times the original crowd of listeners.
UW’s student union, the Federation of Students (FedS), passed a Freedom of Expression policy on April 7, 2013. The policy states:
Whereas the Federation of Students supports freedom of expression and an environment conducive to student discussion on all issues; and
Whereas the Federation of Students feels that students should not be unreasonably restricted in what they may wear;
Be It Resolved That: The Federation of Students opposes the censorship of the freedom to express oneself, unless such an expression is contrary to government established human rights codes.
FedS maintains a Clubs policy which affirms the following principles:
- The university has historically been one of the bastions of academic and philosophical freedom where new ideas emerge and old ideas are debated. This freedom and diversity gives universities a special place in society.
- Although the views expressed by members of our community are diverse and sometimes diametrically opposed, we respect the opinions of all those who respect the rights of others.
- The Federation of Students strives to aid in the social and cultural development of students on campus by providing forums for social, political, spiritual and cultural exploration and communication.
The Student Discipline Policy states that, “the Federation of Students opposes the regulation and discipline of any non-academic off-campus conduct when an individual is not completing duties or responsibilities required of them by the University of Waterloo.”
FedS maintains an Elections By-Law and Procedure for student council and executive elections. Article G(1) requires all campaign materials to be approved by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), but does not specify the criteria for which campaign materials can be approved. The lack of criteria empowers the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) to censor materials at his/her discretion, based on the content of the materials. Article K of the By-Law enforces spending limits on candidates of $300 for Executive positions, $200 for “at-large” seats and $75 for council positions.
The Poster Policy requires all clubs to adhere to the UW Regulations, including Policy 33.
FedS does not take official stances on issues outside of its mandate.
In July of 2015, FedS announced the eviction of the Imprint from its offices in the Student Life Centre, which the student newspaper had rented for more than three decades. The editor of the paper claimed that the decision was in part an attempt to “silence” editorial coverage which had been negative to the FedS. FedS offered the Imprint new office space in the basement of the Student Life Centre.
As discussed in Section 2 of this report, in the case of women’s rights speaker Inga Muscio, the FedS Poster Policy affected the ability of organizers to promote the event. Specifically, under the Poster Policy all posters must adhere to UW and FedS policies and regulations, which is vague enough to empower UW administrators to remove posters simply because complaints are received, as was the case with the promotional posters for Muscio’s talk.