|Student Union Policies
|Student Union Practices
Brock University created a new Free Expression Policy in 2018 to fulfil requirements to protect free speech on campus mandated by the Ontario government. The Free Expression Policy applies to both the University and student union, and defines Free Expression as follows:
“Freedom of expression” means the fundamental freedom to express thoughts, ideas, opinions, or beliefs. Expression can take many forms and may happen in any medium. This freedom is subject to reasonable limits within the law and as necessary for the proper operation of the University, and does not include illegal or unlawful expression (e.g. criminal hate speech, threats or harassment, defamation, etc.).
On limits to free expression, the Policy states:
The University may reasonably restrict the time, place, and manner of an activity or event in order to ensure the safety of the community and/or the proper operations of the University.
Brock University respects the tremendous power that expression can have, and acknowledges the way in which some expression may disproportionately impact and tend to exclude the participation of marginalized individuals and groups. While freedom of expression includes the right to express views with which others strongly disagree, actions or expression that silences or excludes perspectives may diminish the freedom of others in the discovery, creation, and sharing of knowledge. The University expects those engaged in expression to abide by all applicable University policies, including the Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy and the Student Code of Conduct. The University is committed to nurturing a supportive and inclusive environment as a necessary means of ensuring that all members of the Brock community can meaningfully participate in free expression.
The Free Expression Policy also includes a prohibition against disruption:
Freedom of expression includes the right to contest or criticize the views of others. However, no person or group may unduly and significantly interfere with the freedom of expression of another person where such expression is permitted by this Policy.
Brock University’s Senate Statement on Respectful Dialogue and Freedom of Expression states:
…A community where teaching, research and academic freedom will flourish includes an environment where freedom of expression, speech, association and belief is safeguarded and exercised in a culture of mutual respect; where an open exchange of diverse points of views is encouraged; and where every member of the community, including guests and visitors, is able to work, live, teach and learn free from harassment and discrimination.
In order to ensure that all members of our community have the right to examine, discuss, debate and communicate freely, including the right to criticize aspects of society in general and the University itself, the University acknowledges its responsibility to uphold the principles expressed in this statement and to develop implementation strategies that will ensure the lawful protection of these rights and principles.
Brock’s Student Code of Conduct (Code) governs student behaviour on and off-campus. The Code makes clear that it is not to be used to justify censorship:
Nothing in this Code shall be construed to prohibit peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, lawful picketing, or to inhibit freedom of association or expression as permitted by federal, provincial and municipal laws.
Under the section, “Statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities,” the Code states:
Freedom of Discussion: Traditional privileges of a university of freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression can be assured only if all members of the community share the responsibility of granting these freedoms to others and accept the obligation for a standard of behaviour which respects the rights of others.
Brock University has a Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy (Respectful Environment Policy) which is administered by the Office of Human Rights and Equity Services.
The Respectful Environment Policy defines bullying and harassment to include forms of expression such as online commentary, postering, and verbal communication.
The Respectful Environment Policy also defines what is not considered harassment:
…the legitimate (ie. not discriminatory, arbitrary or abusive) exercise of academic freedom, freedom of thought and inquiry, and expression in teaching and research which may result in respectful disagreements regarding beliefs or principles
The Respectful Environment Policy defines various forms of harassment as follows:
“Racial Harassment” is a form of Human Rights Harassment. It is any behaviour, deliberate or otherwise, relating to race, colour, ethnic or national origin, directed at an individual or group, which is found to be offensive or objectionable to the recipient and which creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Some examples include:
“Harassment on the basis of Sexual Orientation and/or Gender Identity” is a form of Human Rights Harassment. It is any behaviour, deliberate or otherwise, relating to an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity, or perceived orientation/identity, directed at an individual or group, which is found to be offensive or objectionable to the recipient and which creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. This form of human rights harassment often stems from homophobia and heterosexism. Homophobia means harassing, prejudicial treatment of, or negative attitudes about, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, transgendered, inter-sexed, two-spirited, or queer (LGBTQ) persons and those perceived to be of these sexual orientations or gender identities. Homophobia includes a range of feelings and behaviours from discomfort and fear to disgust, hatred and violence. Heterosexism is based on societal values that dictate that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual. Some examples of this form of harassment include:
Personal Harassment, Psychological Harassment and Bullying
“Personal Harassment” is deemed to include, but is not restricted to:
“Psychological Harassment” is deemed to include, but is not restricted to:
Personal or psychological harassment do not include:
The Brock Human Rights and Equity Office (HRE) has an ideological mandate of fostering “an intersectional and anti-oppressive culture of conscience at Brock and beyond. We guide collaborative transformation through capacity building and systemic change... Our work challenges the colonial past to build intentional inclusion and equity for the next seven generations.”
In June 2020, Brock University professor Tomáš Hudlický wrote an article in the German-based journal Angewandte Chemie titled “A reflection on the current state of affairs.” The article was retracted because it criticized diversity-based hiring practices and spoke positively about “master-apprentice” working relationships between professors and graduate students.
On June 7, 2020, Brock University Provost and Vice-President Academic Gregory Finn released an open letter on the matter, leveraging institutional power to excoriate Hudlický while disregarding the principle of academic freedom:
On Friday, June 5, the University became aware of a paper written by Professor Tomáš
Hudlický that was published and then retracted by the journal Angewandte Chemie.
The paper includes highly objectionable statements that contrast the promotion of equity
and diversity with the promotion of academic merit. These statements are hurtful and
alienating to members of diverse communities and historically marginalized groups who
have, too often, seen their qualifications and abilities called into question.
The article moreover contains descriptions of the graduate supervisor-graduate student
relationship that connote disrespect and subservience. These statements could be alarming to students and others who have the reasonable expectation of respectful and supportive mentorship.
The statements contained in the paper are not representative of the Brock community.
They are utterly at odds with the values of Brock’s deeply committed research mentors,
and all those working hard to build an inclusive and diverse community. They do not
reflect the principles of inclusivity, diversity and equity included in the University’s
mission, vision and values as approved by our Senate and Board of Trustees.
Together we have made significant strides to foster an institutional culture advancing
human rights and reconciliation. Among other actions, in recent years the University has:
accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization, under Brock’s Institutional
Despite this progress, and the shared values that animate these efforts, we recognize there is still much work to do.
The University released a statement Friday outlining its deep concerns and strong
opposition to the views expressed in the article. Today, I sent a letter to our graduate
students in Chemistry to let them know there were supports available to them and to
provide further assistance should they have questions.
Please be advised that further steps are being considered and developed and these next steps will be shared with the community in the next few days.
On February 27, 2015, the student group Brock Life Line invited pro-life author and lecturer Trent Horn to campus for an event titled “Does human life matter? Why the unborn life should count.” Protesters repeatedly heckled Horn during his presentation, leading him to request Campus Security. Campus Security arrived twenty minutes after being phoned, but stood by as chanting, noise-making and shouting continued, forcing Horn to skip the remainder of his presentation and go straight to Q&A. YouTube recordings of the incident may be found here.
On October 4, 2013, the student group Brock Life Line invited Stephanie Gray from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform to give a talk on campus called “Abortion: Human Right or Human Right Violation?”. The event was held at Isaac’s Pub & Grill, an on-campus pub. Protesters interrupted the presentation and were asked to leave. A video of the incident shows students heckling, laughing, and later yelling, chanting and using noise makers to disrupt Gray’s lecture. Isaac’s Pub security personnel, which were hired by Brock Life Line at their expense, escorted some of the protesters outside of the venue. During the incident, one of the hired security personnel reported being assaulted by a protester.
Brock University announced it would seek disciplinary measures against two students up to and including expulsion, alleging disruption, assault, harassment and failure to comply with directives. Brock invited the students to a hearing of the Disciplinary Panel on October 30, 2013. The panel meeting was later postponed.
On March 14, 2013, two students with the Brock Animal Rights Collective, an unregistered student group, held a film screening about animal rights in the Market Hall cafeteria. The previous day, the Collective had held a demonstration against the testing of animals at Brock.
During the film screening, campus security officers approached the students and asked them to present ID, which they refused.
The University sent a letter informing the students that they had violated the following sections of the Student Code of Conduct:
The letter further informed the students that they could face penalties ranging from a fine, to suspension or even expulsion.
On Monday, March 25, the University dropped the charges and opted to resolve the matter “informally” instead. Carina Magazzeni, one of the two students charged, explained that, “They felt the reaction wasn’t reasonable given the situation.”
Brock spokesperson Kevin Cavanagh stated that the issue wasn’t one of preventing free speech, but centred on specific behaviour concerns. “They were not being punished because of the film and were not being targeted,” Cavanagh reported to the Niagara Advance.
BUSU’s Student Code of Conduct states:
In common with all other individuals in Ontario, BUSU Members enjoy rights under both the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That enjoyment is subject to such limits contained therein. In the latter case, it should be noted that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out therein, but such rights are subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Such reasonable limits may include legal rights of property owners or rights of individuals to peaceful enjoyment of premises. The extent of a right or a freedom may reasonably vary with the circumstances so that an exercise of a right which may be appropriate in a public place may not be appropriate in an educational institution.
The Code of Conduct prohibits “creating a condition that endangers the health, safety or wellbeing of any person” and also prohibits:
Disruption or obstruction, by action, threat, written material, or by any means whatsoever, of any BUSU activities, or other authorized activities on or in the facilities of BUSU; preventing any person from carrying on his or her legitimate activities, whether or not it involves speaking or associating with others.
BUSU does not have a policy expressly committing BUSU to upholding campus free speech rights, however BUSU’s Operating Policies and Procedures protect student groups against arbitrary and content-based denial of ratified status, and from denial of BUSU services and facilities:
The BUSU Operating Policies and Procedures – Human Resources policy states that the following do not qualify as “harassment”:
BUSU’s Clubs Policy states:
… (e) It shares similar values to the mandate of BUSU according to its constitution
Section 84 of the Club By-law states that de-ratification will occur if clubs demonstrate:
Section 13.8 of the Elections and Referenda Policy empowers the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) to approve or reject campaign literature and other communication tools without specifying the criteria that the CRO follows when approving or disapproving such materials.
BUSU does not take positions outside of its mandate.
BUSU did not take a stand against the University’s failure to ensure campus security removed protesters who disrupted a scheduled lecture on campus in February 2015.
BUSU defended the right of pro-life students to hold a lecture which was disrupted by protesters on October 4, 2013.
Following the incident, BUSU released a statement supporting the actions of the University and security:
On Friday October 4th 2013, a Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) ratified club, Brock Life-Line hosted a speaking engagement in Isaac’s Bar & Grill. Clubs ratified by BUSU are required to submit their founding documents and events to BUSU prior to securing space within the Student-Alumni Centre. Brock Life-Line is a student club that according to their constitution, strives to provide pro-life related educational resources to students on campus.
During Brock Life-Line’s event, which was open to all students, an incident occurred. Isaac’s student security staff attempted to maintain order in the room and unfortunately had to remove one of the audience members by force. The incident was captured on a number of mobile devices and then later broadcasted on YouTube and Facebook. After gathering information from staff, Campus Security and from multiple videos, BUSU believes the security staff’s actions were carried out in accordance with the Security Act of Ontario and in an attempt to ensure the safety and order of the students in attendance and was unrelated to the topic being presented on.
With regards to the focus and topic of the event, BUSU understands that it is a divisive and at times a controversial topic. With that said, BUSU is an organization representing over 17,000 undergraduate students whom have varying opinions, ideologies, religious, political and social views. BUSU’s mandate is not to voice an organizational opinion on such topics. It is BUSU’s mandate to ensure that students are able to voice their views, thoughts and beliefs in a respectful, organized and safe manner.