|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
Fulfilling its obligations to the Ontario government, in November 2018, the University of Windsor passed a Statement on Freedom of Expression which states:
Freedom of expression, though, is subject to limits. Canadian law includes restrictions on obscenity, hate speech, threats, defamation, and harassment. The law also regulates the time or location at which expression may occur, in order to coordinate expression with other activities in public spaces.
Students, faculty members, staff, and guests have the right to express themselves in the common or open spaces of the university. This right is subject only to those limits that are necessary to protect the operation of the university and to prevent harm to the university’s members and guests. Students, staff, faculty members, and guests should be protected from unlawful hate speech and harassment, such as racist or sexual comments. However, no member of the academic community has a right to be protected from the expression of ideas they dislike or regard as wrong or offensive. The individual’s expression may be zealous, impassioned, and even uncivil. The university may restrict or limit such expression only when it disrupts the central activities of the institution; when, for example, the expression is so loud that it interferes with teaching activities.
Extra-curricular events, including visiting speakers, are an important part of the university’s academic life. Such events should be restricted only when they are likely to involve unlawful speech. At the same time, freedom of expression protects the right of others in the university to protest such an event. The right to protest is protected provided the protestors do not seek to disrupt academic or other activities on campus.
The free exchanges of ideas and information is central to the university’s role as a place of learning and research. The university must permit and protect the free expression of its community members, subject only to limits necessary to protect the operation of the institution or to prevent harm to members of the university. The university must resist any attempt to interfere with the freedom of expression of its members and guests. The university has in place procedures for addressing interferences with the rights of the community’s members and guests to express themselves.
The University of Windsor Senate Bylaw 33: Student Rights and Freedoms affirms its Recognition of Fundamental Freedoms:
The University acknowledges that the mutual respect of student and teacher is fundamental to the learning process. It accepts as first principles the rights of freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, as interpreted under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are rights which must be respected and protected if a University is to function and flourish...
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also guarantees to everyone the freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association. The University affirms the right of public peaceful assembly and the open expression of ideas and opinions. While the protection of the Charter is afforded to all, this does not diminish the obligation to observe the law and not to interfere with the rights and privileges of others or the continuity of the educational process.
Section 1 of the University of Windsor’s Student Code of Conduct states that the University:
The Code prohibits “Intentional obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary proceedings, or other University activities, including public service functions, and other authorized activities on University premises.”
The Code also prohibits “Knowingly creating a situation that endangers or threatens the health, safety or well-being of any person or that threatens to damage or destroy property, while on campus or while off-campus and representing, or acting as a representative of, the University or a student group/organization.”
The Human Rights Policy of the University of Windsor empowers a Human Rights Office to do the following:
“Prohibited behaviours” under this Policy include:
Using stereotypes to describe a particular group; name calling; insults; threats; slurs; degrading or unwelcoming remarks; jokes or innuendos about a person/persons in relation to the prohibited grounds in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Displaying or distributing racist/sexist derogatory or otherwise offensive materials or graffiti; displaying or distributing derogatory pictures or cartoons.
The University of Windsor has a Language Equity Policy which states:
It is the policy of the University of Windsor that in all its documents, publications and communications there shall be respect for individual worth, dignity, integrity and capacity. The University of Windsor is committed to language equity which avoids stereotyping and labeling, and which promotes an environment in which learning and working are enhanced by the equitable treatment of all persons no matter what their race, creed, colour, sex, national origin, age, disability, or sexual orientation, in accordance with applicable national and provincial laws.
While this Policy appears only to apply to the University of Windsor administration in its internal documents, publications and communications, the University’s Sign Posting Policy includes the Language Equity Policy in its criteria for approved posters:
Posters may only be placed on poster boards, cork strips or other similar materials installed for such purposes. All posters/banners must adhere to the University of Windsor Language Equity Policy, particularly, “there shall be respect for individual worth, dignity, integrity and capacity.”
The Language Equity Guide was created to further explain the University of Windsor’s Language Equity Policy. The Guide calls itself “a guide to inclusive language.” The Guide further states:
As an employer and as an education provider, the University of Windsor is legally obliged to ensure that people can work and study in an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination, and which is not hostile or demeaning.
The Guide gives examples of unacceptable/non-inclusive language and suggests replacements. For example, students are encouraged to refrain from saying “the office girls” and instead say “the administrative staff.” Instead of saying “manning the booths” the Guide suggests saying “staffing the booths.” A “Woman lawyer” should be referred to as a “lawyer” and instead of using “hermaphrodite” the Guide suggests the term “intersex.”
While the Guide itself is meant to be suggestive rather than mandatory, the inclusion of the Language Equity Policy in the Poster Policy enables censorship of the content of student literature and posters.
U Windsor has an Office of Equity, Diversity and Accessibility. It does not facilitate mandatory or voluntary trainings on diversity and inclusivity; its core programming focuses on accessibility issues and employment equity.
On October 21, 2015, the campus group University of Windsor Jewish Student Association held a lecture on campus by Ishmael Khaldi, an Israeli diplomat, to discuss his perspective growing up as a Bedouin minority in Israel. The lecture was disrupted by protesters, mostly members of the student group “Palestinian Solidarity Group”. The protesters shouted and interrupted Khaldi’s talk, and then walked out, allowing the event to proceed. The University’s Campus Police were not present at the event, and the university took no actions to prosecute the disrupters, some of whom were recorded on video.
In October of 2015, the pro-life student group Life Choice held a chalking event on campus, as part of a coordinated effort by pro-life student groups across the country to raise awareness about abortion issues. The event involved writing pro-life messages and statistics on sidewalks and concrete grounds throughout campus—a tactic used frequently by other student groups at the University of Windsor, and which is not expressly prohibited by any University policy. Prior to this event taking place, club member Maggie McAuley had asked a student councilor with the University of Windsor Students Association (UWSA) whether she needed to have her event approved by the university or the UWSA. This councilor incorrectly stated that Ms. McAuley did not require approval.
On the day of the chalking event, called Chalktober, Maggie’s mother received a phone call from Campus Police requesting to know the whereabouts of Maggie. The Campus Police further stated that Maggie’s actions involving the chalking event were “illegal,” and that the Campus Police would take Maggie out of her class if her mother did not disclose her whereabouts.
The Campus Police then phoned Maggie and told her that she had engaged in “public mischief and trespassing” through her chalking event. Maggie then contacted the Dean of Students, Dr. Clayton Smith, who told her that chalking was equivalent to graffiti and therefore not permitted, despite the university having frequently permitted or condoned other chalking events each year. The chalking event was halted, and the university proceeded to wash off the chalk so that passersby wouldn’t see these pro-life messages.
After the Chalktober event, LifeChoice planned another event on campus for October 21, 2015, this time involving the display of thousands of blue and pink flags meant to raise awareness about the number of abortions in Canada each year, and Canada’s current abortion laws. Ms. McAuley received permission to hold the event in the outdoor residence quad area from Dean Smith on October 20, 2015, after Ms. McAuley had requested a higher traffic space and was denied. Dean Smith also told Ms. McAuley to surround the display with caution tape, a request he later rescinded.
On the morning of October 21, the University of Windsor Students’ Association(UWSA) vice president for student advocacy, Matt Dunlop, approached Ms. McAuley at the residence quad and told her she needed approval from grounds administrators before her event could continue. Ms McAuley informed Mr. Dunlop she had received permission to hold the event from the Dean of Students, and Mr. Dunlop left. Mr. Dunlop then made a posting to Facebook instructing friends to “get ready to protest,” and then returned to the residence quad with a group of protesting students, including members of the UWSA executive, council and residence council. The students protesting proceeded to kick the flags in an effort to knock them out of their positions in the ground.
During the protest, the Dean of Students and the UWSA president approached Ms. McAuley at the residence quad. Dean Smith told her that he was rescinding his permission to hold the event, and that she would be able to re-book for a later date and different location. Neither Dean Smith nor Campus Police took any action to stop the protesters who were vandalizing Ms. McAuley’s authorized display, nor to prosecute the students under its own policies.
Responding to a referendum passed by the University of Windsor Students' Alliance (UWSA) in support of an anti-Israel boycott (see section 4), in March of 2014, University of Windsor president Alan Wilderman launched an investigation into alleged violations of UWSA's constitution and by-laws. Wilderman told media that he was concerned about students who felt unsafe and may not return to the University because of the referendum. In April of 2014, Wilderman temporarily suspended funding of UWSA until he was sure there was a “properly governed organization” in place. Notably, Wilderman did not reference free expression in his remarks.
The investigation found “the petition to hold the referendum did not meet the standard of 500 valid signatures; changes to the structure of the UWSA executive violated its bylaws; some members of the executive and council have not met the constitutional criteria for membership; the motion approving the referendum lacked quorum; the referendum question was unclear and ambiguous.” Wilderman sent a letter to UWSA informing them that the referendum had thus failed.
In April of 2008, the University of Windsor’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) organized a film-screening and lecture intended to shed light on the “crisis in Palestine” and the Israel-Palestine conflict. The event was cancelled (by the MSA) after a university administrator, the international students advisor, informed the MSA president that the event had the potential to incite anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bigotry.
The film, titled “Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority,” depicts Palestinians recounting abuse by Israeli soldiers. Osama Iqbal, then-president of the MSA, decided to cancel the event because the group’s intention was not to incite hatred but rather, to increase awareness about the humanitarian situation in Palestine.
It is not clear whether the University of Windor’s international students advisor said that the event ought to be cancelled, or that the event must be cancelled.
The preamble to the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance (UWSA) Constitution states:
Our common values include those entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; goodness, discipline and knowledge as unfurled on our university crest; preferences for peace, understanding, compassion, co-operation, excellence, hope, justice, and respect; and, the spirit of community with purpose that underlines our choice to unite through this Alliance
The UWSA funds “Equity Collectives” which it describes as follows:
An Equity Collective is a platform by which marginalized students can share common concerns and propose initiatives that can combat oppression, as well as educate the University community and improve the student experience for marginalized communities. This is a safer space empowered by the Board of Directors to serve as a grass-roots think tank and decision-making body.
Section 9 of the Policy governing Equity Collectives gives decision-making authority to these Collectives:
9.1 Decisions of this collective will be made by simple majority.
9.2 The Operations Committee and Board of Directors will make best efforts to support and implement the decisions and initiatives of the collective.
9.3 Priority will be given to the collective’s voice and representation.
The Policy does not prescribe limits or procedures governing the scope of “Decisions” these Collectives can recommend, nor does it specifically require the Board of Directors to prioritize the Charter and freedom of expression rights.
UWSA’s policies governing student groups, events and issues advocacy are not publicly available.
UWSA’s Elections Policy restricts the ways in which members of a campaign team can voice support for their candidate. Section 70.07 states:
The following activities constitute being a supporter of a Candidate rather than a Campaign Team member: i. appearing in campaign videos; ii. wearing shirts to support a Candidate; or iii. sharing social media posts in support of a Candidate.
Section 70.08 of the Policy states that “Candidates may face penalty only for registered campaign team members partaking in the activities listed in 70.07 and not supporters partaking in the same.”
In February of 2016, UWSA executives scheduled a vote for their next council meeting to de-ratify the student pro-life club, LifeChoice, and to classify it as a “hate group”. Contrary to de-ratification protocols, the UWSA did not formally inform LifeChoice of its intention to vote on their club status. Instead, a member of the executive approached club member Margaret McAuley in a cafeteria on campus the day before the vote was scheduled to take place, letting her know of their intentions.
Ms. McAuley attended the meeting prepared to defend her club’s right to operate on campus. A member of the UWSA executive then moved to defer the vote to another meeting. The vote has never been rescheduled.
The student group LifeChoice planned an event on campus for October 21, 2015, involving the display of thousands of blue and pink flags meant to raise awareness about the number of abortions in Canada each year, and Canada’s current abortion laws. Club member Margaret McAuley received permission to hold the event in the outdoor residence quad area from Dean Smith on October 20, 2015.
On the morning of October 21, the UWSA vice president for student advocacy, Matt Dunlop, approached Ms. McAuley at the residence quad and told her she needed approval from grounds administrators before her event could continue. Ms McAuley informed Mr. Dunlop she had received permission to hold the event from the Dean of Students, and Mr. Dunlop left. Mr. Dunlop then made a posting to Facebook instructing friends to “get ready to protest,” and then returned to the residence quad with a group of protesting students, including members of the UWSA executive, council and residence council. The students protesting proceeded to kick the flags in an effort to knock them out of their positions in the ground.
During the protest, the Dean of Students and the UWSA president Jaydee Tarpeh approached Ms. McAuley at the residence quad. Dean Smith told her that he was rescinding his permission to hold the event, and that she would be able to re-book for a later date and different location. Dean Smith nor Campus Police took no actions to stop the protesters who were vandalizing Ms. McAuley’s display, nor to prosecute the students under its own policies.
According to reports of the incident, “key members” of the UWSA were involved in the intervention that resulted in the display being removed. In response to the controversy, UWSA president Jaydee Tarpeh made comments to the student paper, the Lance, in support of the Dean of Student’s request for the display to be removed:
“It’s such a touchy issue,” Tarpeh said. “It’s going to be finding a space where she can enforce her opinion as well as when other people pass by, they can avoid the space if they want to and it doesn’t emotionally hurt certain people.”