|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) states on its “Values, Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles” webpage that it is committed to the teaching and learning of “scholarly exploration and the application of new ideas”. WLU’s mission statement reads:
Wilfrid Laurier University is devoted to excellence in learning, research, scholarship and creativity. It challenges people to become engaged and aware citizens of an increasingly complex world. It fulfills its mission by advancing knowledge, supporting and enhancing high-quality undergraduate, graduate and professional education, and emphasizing co-curricular development of the whole student.
Laurier’s Guiding Principles also focus on building community citizenship, “learning and advancing knowledge across boundaries”, and an “openness to change”.
The preamble of the WLU Student Code of Conduct and Discipline (Section 12.2.I) states that students are allowed to pursue their learning through “free enquiry and free expression” and any intellectual and personal interests without interference. The University “recognizes academic freedom…acknowledging that the common good of society depends upon the search for knowledge.”
The Code’s Introduction lays the groundwork for how the administration at WLU views freedom on campus, and describes it as being free from interference, providing one’s actions do not limit the rights of others:
Members of the Laurier community enjoy the freedom to pursue their intellectual and personal interests without interference, provided that their actions do not limit the rights of other members of the University or the community in which it is situated. The objects of the University are the pursuit of learning through scholarship, teaching, and research within a spirit of free enquiry and expression. The University recognizes academic freedom and the right to peaceful protest, acknowledging that the common good of society depends upon the search for knowledge, and its free expression.
The Student Code of Conduct and Discipline states in Section 6.1 (last updated in February 2011):
Wilfrid Laurier University is devoted to learning, research, scholarship, creativity, professional expertise, and personal development in a student-centred environment. The University is committed to providing an environment for study, teaching, research work and recreation for all members of the University community that is supportive of professional and personal development and free from all forms of harassment and/or discrimination as outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Section 6.1 of the Student Code of Conduct and Discipline seeks to eradicate a “negative environment”, in addition to discrimination and harassment. “Negative Environment” is defined as follows:
One or a series of comments or conduct that creates a negative environment for individuals or groups and are related to the prohibited grounds. The comments or conduct must be of a significant nature or degree and have the effect of "poisoning" the work or study environment. A complainant does not have to be a direct target to be adversely affected by a negative environment. It includes conduct or comments that create and maintain an offensive, hostile, or intimidating climate for study or work. Examples include but are not limited to exposure to graffiti, signs, cartoons, remarks, exclusion, or adverse treatment related to one or more of the prohibited grounds.
Section A.1 of Section 4.10 in the WLU Student Code of Conduct states:
Academic and General University Users
There will be no charges to University departments and student organizations for the use of space. There will be charges, however, for deploying of staff for duties outside of normal responsibilities; services such as food, refreshments, and equipment rental; and for special set-up and unusual maintenance costs.
On March 21, 2012, WLU administration forced the Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG) to take down posters regarding “Israel Apartheid Week”. WLU enforced its decision by sending a Special Constable Supervisor to ask the LSPIRG sub-committee, Laurier 4 Palestine, to take down three posters deemed “offensive.” The officer justified WLU’s request on the grounds that the posters “incited hate”. The posters in question had been displayed as part of a gallery event hosted by Laurier 4 Palestine in the Solarium, an area on campus for students to use as they please, which can be booked by student groups for various functions.
Source: The Cord, March 21, 2012
“Laurier’s 100 Words Drabble Contest” was launched in February of 2011, one of several events held in conjunction with WLU’s 100th anniversary. This contest provided the following caveat when explaining the rules for acceptable content:
Laurier values free speech and freedom of expression and will accept entries containing a wide variety of content. However, entries will be deemed ineligible if they contain content that is threatening, abusive, contains commercial solicitations, is erroneous/libelous, sexist, racist, homophobic or is for any reason deemed inappropriate, as bound by Wilfrid Laurier University privacy policies and the Wilfrid Laurier University Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Section 6.1. We reserve the right to remove ineligible entries from the contest without notice.
In the fall of 2009, Dr. Tom Flanagan spoke to the WLU Political Science Association (PSA). The organizers raised significant concerns about protesters trying to prevent him from speaking. The administration made the effort to ensure Dr. Flanagan could give his lecture, and was willing to provide security free of charge if any incidents arose. PSA Treasurer Rico Vipari made arrangements for additional security, but “[i]t ended up that they were not needed and protesters allowed the event to proceed without incident”.
Source: Interview with Rico Vipari, July 26, 2012
The Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) does not mention free expression in its mission or vision statements. Under Guiding Principles, WLUSU states:
The Students’ Union shall be a Community Conscious organization. We will strive to promote and foster a culture of inclusivity and safety within the greater Laurier community. We will remain cognizant of our unique Laurier culture and make decisions accordingly.
WLUSU’s Elections & Referenda Policies place quantity restrictions on campaign materials.
WLUSU has a “Diversity and Equity Office” (DEO) to foster inclusiveness and promote equality on campus through many avenues, including seminars on topics including LGBT and inclusive language issues. The front page of the DEO’s website provides its mission statement and purpose:
We promote empowerment and education as means of creating an open and accepting quality of life for all students, staff, faculty, and community members. We believe in eradicating the barriers that inhibit access to equal opportunities, and we advocate for the inclusion and equal treatment of everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, religion, age, ability, or socio-economic background.
In conjunction with the DEO, WLUSU also promotes “inclusive language” on campus and throughout its subsidiaries and services, defined as:
…language that does not exclude, insult, trivialize or stereotype on the basis of gender, disability, and race. It means avoiding any language that could offend, demean, or promote stereotypes about a particular group. It is not ‘political correctness’ but merely choosing language that is welcoming and acceptable to people of all genders, races, and disabilities.
While there is no “ban” on a particular topic, there is an expectation that everyone will adhere to the “inclusive language” concept. This means refraining from using phrases that could be misconstrued as racist, “homophobic,” or discriminatory. Commonly used “un-inclusive” words or phrases, according to WLUSU, include…
-“That’s so gay”
-“That’s what she said”
-“You’re so retarded”
-“That test raped me”
-“Gypped” or “Jewed”
-Boyfriend or Girlfriend (use “partner” instead)
It’s not entirely clear whether WLUSU condoned the university administration’s actions when it ordered the removal of posters regarding Israeli Apartheid Week. During the 2011-2012 school year, WLUSU President Gibson commented on the role of WLUSU during the incident, saying “…administration and the Student Union kept an eye on it to ensure there were no incidents of people inciting violence, etc.” Gibson’s remarks demonstrate that WLUSU was aware of the actions taken by the administration, but that WLUSU itself was not a catalyst in removing the posters. This indicates that, although WLUSU was consulted by WLU on how they handled Israel Apartheid Week, it was WLU that made the decision to violate students’ freedom of expression by taking down their posters in the on campus Solarium.
In 2008, a group called “Laurier Free-thought Alliance” (LFA) was registered as a student club. The vision of the club was “to promote a fulfilling life without religion and superstition”. WLUSU denied the club official certification and equal access to resources “due to the need to respect and tolerate the views of others”. However, after many protests and angry letters/emails to the administration, Campus Clubs (the subsidiary of WLUSU that approves campus clubs and their funding) eventually allowed the LFA to be approved for club status provided they change the wording in their vision statement. A compromise was reached on this matter and the LFA was ultimately approved by Campus Clubs.