|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
In its Mission, Vancouver Island University (VIU) describes itself as “a dynamic and diverse educational organization, dedicated to excellence in teaching and learning, service and research. VIU fosters student success, strong community connections and international collaboration…”
VIU lists among its Core Values a commitment to the following:
Learning: we support student success, access to education, appropriate use of technology, development of literacies, communication and exchange of ideas across disciplines and locations, exploration and application of new thought and pursuit of lifelong learning
Discovery: through the pursuit of free enquiry we promote an enduring learning community
Diversity: we value human diversity in all its dimensions and are committed to maintaining learning and working environments which are equitable, diverse and inclusive
The Values Statement states that VIU supports a “collegial, respectful, and supportive working environment. We encourage continuing opportunities for the learning and growth of our employees. We honour the open exchange of ideas, academic freedom, and collaboration across departments and disciplines.”
VIU’s Student Conduct Code includes the following under examples of misconduct:
- Personal harassment: Abusive and/or demeaning treatment that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive learning or working environment for others.
- Disruption of the learning and working environment: Conduct disruptive of the University learning and working environment. The University environment includes instructional and non-instructional activity sponsored by the University on or off campus.
- Obscene, libelous and copyright material: The publication, posting or distribution of material violating the laws of libel, copyright, obscenity, or human rights.
The Human Rights Policy states that “[i]t is recognized that academic freedom is an important value of the University. This policy will be interpreted in light of our commitment to this value.” It also states “all members of the University community are responsible for treating each other with respect and dignity.”
VIU’s document entitled Responding to Complaints of Personal Harassment defines personal harassment:
- Behaviour that generally involves a course of conduct directed towards a specific person or persons which serves no legitimate educational or work related purpose; and,
- is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to have the effect of creating an intimidating, humiliating, offensive or hostile educational or work environment.
This document further states that “[a] single incident, when sufficiently serious, may be considered personal harassment.” Examples of personal harassment listed include “yelling, name calling, or swearing,” “demeaning comments or jokes regarding a person’s character, body, or other personal aspects,” “spreading malicious rumors, gossip or innuendo” and “persistent unwarranted criticism.”
VIU defines disruptive behaviour in its Disruption Free Learning and Working Environment policy as “[any] interruption to the learning environment that serves to obstruct, bring disorder, or break the flow of continuity of the activity.” It further states:
Vancouver Island University recognizes the right of students and employees to have a positive learning and working environment that is free of disruptive and intimidating behaviour. This environment includes all locations on and off campus where any activity may be scheduled under the auspices of Vancouver Island University.
The Presentations on Campus policy states that VIU “will encourage the imparting and exchange of views and opinions on all matters, subject only to restrictions imposed by law.”
The Rental of University Facilities policy states that use is “subject to the understanding that [VIU] does not necessarily support the goals, beliefs or behaviour of the individual or organization.”
On Flyers and Handbills, the Bulletin Boards, Posters and Flyers policy states:
The dissemination of flyers and handbills is restricted to hand-to-hand distribution and placement on tables in general student lounge spaces and the cafeterias, and other public spaces as determined appropriate by the Faculty, department, or campus organization… The distribution of hand-to-hand materials must be conducted in a respectful manner consistent with the policies, procedures and values of the University.
In March of 2013, Vancouver Island University cancelled all advertising with the Nanaimo Daily News and its parent-company Glacier Media after the paper published a letter to the editor which many deemed “racist.” The letter entitled "Educate First Nations to be modern citizens" questioned the accomplishments of First Nations communities and depicted them as chronic underachievers.
VIU issued the following statement on the matter:
“The Board of Governors and administration of Vancouver Island University strongly condemn the letter to the editor published in the Nanaimo Daily News on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, entitled “Educate First Nations to be modern citizens.”
"The Board of Governors passed a unanimous motion to this effect at its meeting today at VIU’s Cowichan campus.
This letter can only be described as misinformed, derogatory and racist. As a university, we are proud of the fact that we embrace and celebrate our partnerships with First Nations communities. We are equally proud to welcome more than 2,000 self-identified Aboriginal students – many of whom come from communities outside of our region – to our campuses where they will find a supportive learning environment to help achieve their dreams.
It is for these reasons that we feel the opinions expressed in this letter have no place in civilized debate or on the pages of an established newspaper. It not only goes against the values of respectful dialogue and human rights which are at the core of our institution; it does not reflect the values of openness, tolerance and respect which are hallmarks of the Nanaimo community.
We wish to express our profound disappointment with the Nanaimo Daily News and the Glacier Media Group for allowing this letter to be published. While we acknowledge that Glacier Media has issued an apology, VIU has nevertheless decided to suspend all activities with Glacier Media until further notice.
Furthermore, we invite the Glacier Media leadership to meet with representatives of the VIU community – students, faculty and staff – to further enhance their understanding of how respect for and understanding of traditional Aboriginal knowledge and culture is integral to education, not only for Aboriginal peoples but for all citizens. The University will be pleased to offer space to the community to host a dialogue on the importance of Aboriginal education, mutual respect and reconciliation.
After all, providing education for modern citizens is what universities help to do.
The Vancouver Island University Students’ Union (VIUSU) does not reference free expression in its mission statement or other policies.
VIUSU categorizes clubs differently according to their purpose:
The VIUSU takes positions on issues outside its mandate. In the 2015-2016 year, VIUSU passed a statement calling for governments to take action regarding suicides at the Attawapiskat First Nation.
The authors are not aware of the VIUSU discriminating against students because of their views, nor of VIUSU denying access to resources on campus to students or student groups with unpopular messages.