|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
The Statement of Principles in Acadia University’s Non-Academic Judicial Handbook states:
Acadia University strongly supports the principle of freedom of expression and inquiry, will protect the right of its members to express unpopular opinions and ideas and conduct research in unpopular areas, and will expect that members of the Acadia University community will recognize their responsibility to protect these rights for all other members of the community. The University does not tolerate intimidation (which includes, but is not limited to, harassment and “silencing” of unpopular opinions). We also believe that a fundamental code of behaviour is sensitivity to the effect of one’s personal behaviour on others and respect for their personal and property rights.
Acadia University’s Policy Against Harassment and Discrimination defines sexual harassment to include “visual displays of degrading sexual images,” and “offensive remarks of a sexual nature.” However, it further states that:
B.3: Neither this policy in general, nor its definitions in particular, are to be applied in such a way as to detract from the right to engage in the frank discussion of potentially controversial matters including, but not limited to, age, race, politics, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. These are legitimate topics and no University policy should have the effect of limiting discussion of them or of prohibiting instructional techniques, such as the use of irony, the use of conjecture and refutation, or the assignment of readings that advocate controversial positions, provided that such discussion and instruction are conducted in a mutually respectful and non-coercive manner.
Acadia University funds an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer whose role is described as follows:
Take reasonable steps to protect the health, safety, and security of any member of the University community in relation to the Harassment & Discrimination Policy.
Receive, investigate, and resolve complaints by informal resolution, mediation, or formal complaint.
Provide and promote programs that raise campus awareness of the nature of, and problems associated with, discrimination, sexual harassment, and personal harassment and educate those in positions of responsibility in the objectives and implementation of the policy.
Acadia University does not have an anti-disruption policy prohibiting students (and other people) from blocking, obstructing, disrupting or interrupting speech on campus.
On February 13, 2018, Heather Hemming, vice-president academic at Acadia University, wrote a letter to tenured professor of psychology Rick Mehta that the school has received complaints from students, faculty and others expressing concerns that “relate to the manner in which you are expressing views that you are alleged to be advancing or supporting and, in some instances, time that you are spending on these issues in the classroom." The views which vice-president Hemming is referring to include postings Mehta had made on social media and in the classroom which were critical of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“The university has a legal responsibility to provide an environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment and personal harassment,” the letter continued.
“The nature and frequency of these complaints and the significance of the allegations is concerning for the university, and we have determined the necessity of proceeding to a formal investigation.”
In August 2018, concluding its investigation, Acadia University fired Professor Mehta. Dr. Mehta’s Faculty Association and the University participated in a voluntary mediation process to resolve the dispute, and a settlement was reached on April 1, 2019.
Free expression and academic freedom are not referenced in the Mission Statement of the Acadia Students’ Union (“ASU”).
The ASU’s Operating Procedures state that the ASU will not ratify a student group if it:
iii. Is perceived to substantially duplicate the name, mandate, objectives, or activities of an ASU program or service;
vii. Exists to fulfill a short-term, time limited mandate.
The By-Laws of the ASU include regulations governing student elections. By-Law 3, Article 14 states:
In accordance with the principles established in Article 2, Section 1, Candidates in any Union Election are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the following rules of fair play:
(a) Candidates will demonstrate respect for others; (b) Candidates will engage in fair competition; (c) Candidates will compete on equal terms in order for voters to make a fair decision; (d) Candidates will demonstrate integrity by adhering to a code of moral values, particularly honesty, during Union Elections; (e) Candidates will regard Union Elections with a sense of respect for the democratic process, and with an ultimate goal of enhancing the welfare of students at Acadia University; (f) Candidates will demonstrate an ability and willingness to tolerate opposing opinions, behaviours, and decisions
By-Law 3, Article 15 states:
In accordance with the principles established in Article 2, Section 1, candidates in any Union Election are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the following community standards:
(a) As students at Acadia University and members of the ASU, all participants in Union Elections, including candidates, volunteers, and voters, shall be required to comply with University and ASU Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures, including rules related to harassment, discrimination, and other types of non-academic misconduct;
(b) ASU welcomes debate and dissent; however, campaign activities are not permitted to harm the reputation of any individual, the ASU, or Acadia University;
(c) Campaign activities are not permitted to interfere with or cause unwelcome disruption to any person or group including faculty, staff, or students who continue to study, attend class, and work during the Union Elections;
(d) Campaign activities will not insult, attack, harass, bully, threaten, demean, or impersonate others;
(e) Campaign activities will not advocate hate, violence, or contempt against any individual or group based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, personal expression, or ability;
(f) Campaign activities will not contain content that is graphic, violent, or obscene and this includes content is construed to be explicit, overly suggestive, or intentionally shocking;
(g) Campaign activities will not promote the excessive consumption of cannabis, alcohol or drinking games, or smoking;
(h) Candidates shall comply with all municipal, provincial, and federal laws and campaign activities will not promote or depict illegal activities;
(i) Participants in Union Elections have a right to privacy and campaign activities will not reveal the personal information of others without their consent.
Penalties for Offences under By-Law 3 include disqualification as a candidate.
There are no recent cases of the Acadia Students’ Union failing to uphold freedom of expression on campus; however, the student union failed to condemn the actions of the University when it fired one of its professors over comments he gave during class and on social media.