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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:
The University of Windsor is a community of scholars committed to the motto of: Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge. As in any community, integrity is the foundation upon which all else is built. Fundamentally, a university is a place where those eager to learn gather to advance knowledge in an open, accepting and friendly manner with a goal to making important contributions to society.
- It is a place where freedom of expression is protected vigorously and uncompromisingly and where civility of expression in word and deed is the code of conduct.
- It is a place where all people are treated fairly without concern to religion, race, colour, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability or age.
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 prohibits harassment comprising four “behaviours”. The two categories relevant to speech are Verbal Behaviour and Written Materials:
Prohibited behaviours include but are not limited to:
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 Poster 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.
The University of Windsor has no policies which explicitly empower officials to charge fees for security at events discussing controversial subject matter.
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’ Association (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.
UWSA’s Student Group Policy requires all student groups to uphold freedom of expression rights:
7.2.2 Intends to carry on activities that do not violate any federal or provincial laws, municipal by-laws, or university regulations; and which do not infringe upon the rights and privileges of others. These rights include, but are not limited to, the right to privacy and freedom of expression and association.
The Student Group Policy mandates that UWSA not recognize any student group which:
7.3: …practices any form of coercive (persistent mental, social, and emotional pressure to join the group) techniques of their membership or potential membership, nor any student group who are found to be association with an outside body which practices coercion, or knowingly violates any of the procedures contained herein.
Section 11 of the Student Group Policy states:
11.2 The following are not acceptable means of recruiting:
11.2.1 Repeated individual solicitation either in writing or in person
11.2.2 Deliberate misrepresentation of the group’s mandate or goals
11.2.3 Solicitation of membership with the intention of garnering total adherence to cultural values and religious beliefs
11.3 Anything not in the ‘accepted’ list above is not an acceptable means of recruiting unless approved by the VPA and the Student Group Coordinator.
The Club Funding Policy empowers UWSA’s Vice President – Administration (VPA) to impose “any conditions on the event it deems prudent” and that “UWSA will only sponsor events that are consistent with our mandate.” UWSA’s Special Event Funding Policy includes identical statements in this regard, as well as the Club Relief Policy. Therefore, all UWSA policies governing club funding bestow blanket censorship powers upon the VPA in the distribution of UWSA resources. The Funding Request Form states the criteria by which the Board of Directors may determine suitability for funding:
- Campus benefit- What is the benefit to the overall undergraduate experience at Windsor campus? The more benefit to students per dollar, the more funding may be justified.
- Openness/Exclusivity- Is the event open to all students or exclusive? The more open the event, the more payment may be justified; the more closed the event, the less payment may be justified.
- Student Support- Would a reasonable fee paying student supports his/her money paying for this? This is essential, for each dollar given is a dollar taken from the student body.
- Alternatives- How does UWSA funding rank in appropriateness compared with alternative sources of funding? If there are more appropriate sources of funding, the UWSA should not grant payment.
UWSA’s Elections Policy empowers elections officials to penalize elections candidates if media coverage received by one candidate exceeds the media coverage received by another candidate:
6.3.4 Any media coverage of a candidate that exceeds the media coverage of another candidate may be counted as a campaign expenditure by the CRO and, in addition, may subject the candidate to a penalty.
Section 6.6 of the Elections Policy prohibits campaign materials that discuss other candidates, among other prohibitions:
6.6 All Campaign Materials must be:
a) Personally approved by the CRO or DRO;
b) Approved by the professor or teaching aid where the campaign material is used in a class setting.
Section 80.07 of the Policy states that campaign materials must not:
iii. overlap or be attached to any hung or posted campaign material of another candidate;
vii. have any content that denigrates the spirit of a fair and peaceful democratic election;
viii. disparage the spirit of a fair and peaceful democratic election.
The UWSA operates a Student Centre Poster and Bulletin Policy which states:
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".
On March 1, 2014, the UWSA student body passed a referendum to endorse the The Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a global political campaign that asks companies, individuals and governments to halt economic and cultural relationships with companies that produce or grow products in Israel or the “illegal settlement” of the West Bank.
The question was put on a ballot after the Palestinian Solidarity Group at the university claimed to have gathered 500 signatures on a petition.
The referendum was thrown out, however, after University of Windsor president Alan Wilderman found several violations of UWSA by-laws and procedures, including that “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.”
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.”