|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
The Mission of Cape Breton University (CBU) does not contain any references to freedom of expression or academic freedom, stating only “Cape Breton University is committed to high-quality, accessible education; innovative research; and a vibrant, multicultural future for the Island.”
Likewise, CBU’s Vision and Values do not contain any references to academic freedom or freedom of expression.
As outlined in their 2019-2024 Strategic Plan, CBU makes no references to encouraging open dialogue, freedom of speech, or the pursuit of truth; but instead endeavours to “Indigenize the L’nu Way” and engage in “Advocating for pathways and supports to facilitate immigration.”
CBU’s collective agreement with its faculty association supports the ideal of academic freedom, as well as freedom of expression, in Article 12.1:
The common good of society depends upon the search for knowledge and its free expression. Academic freedom in universities is essential to both these purposes in the teaching function of the university as well as in its scholarship and research. Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of the individual; rather, academic freedom makes commitment possible.
The collective agreement further states:
The Parties agree that the censorship of information is inimical to the free pursuit of knowledge. The collection, organization, and dissemination of knowledge by Members will be done freely and without bias in support of the research, teaching and study needs of the University community. The Parties agree that no censorship based on moral, religious, or political views shall be exercised or allowed against any material which a Member desires to be placed in the library collections of the University.
CBU’s Respectful Campus Policy states that the Prohibited Grounds of Discrimination are:
A section within the Respectful Campus Policy is titled “Academic Freedom and Human Rights,” which reads: “The University acknowledges that situations arise in which there is a perceived conflict between academic freedom and human rights. A violation of either freedom is of grave concern to the University.”
While the University encourages frank discussion among its community members, and the pursuit of academic freedom, it wishes to make clear that public or private statements and practices which have the effect of discriminating against a protected class of individuals per the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act will be considered a violation of this policy.
Cape Breton University has a Respectful Campus Office, where its Human Rights Officer “provides the campus community with programs relating to diversity, inclusion, consent, bystander intervention, sexual assault, harassment, human rights and...assists the University in exploring and developing programs around intercultural competency as our campus community continues to expand and diversify.”
The authors are not aware of recent cases of Cape Breton University discriminating against students, faculty or invited guests based on the content of their speech.
The preamble to the Cape Breton University Students’ Union (CBUSU) Bylaws states:
Whereas the objective of the Cape Breton University Students’ Union is to serve the membership, promote and advocate students’ rights, and to provide services for the betterment of the quality of life on campus on a non-for profit basis;
Whereas the Students’ Union is a non-partisan advocacy group with the sole interest of its student members, and will work with all political groups to achieve its goals
CBUSU’s Office Operations Policy prohibits the use of specific high-traffic spaces to promote “any materials which threaten, harass, or otherwise promote discrimination against any individual or groups within the CBU community and the community at large.”
The Office Operations Policy uses vague and ambiguous terms which could easily result in CBUSU officials censoring students and student groups on campus. For example, the Students’ Union does not define “discrimination” in any other policy or document, and also fails to adopt CBU’s definition, so a CBUSU official could create his or her own definition of “discrimination.”
Section 19 of CBUSU’s Office Operations Policy states:
Groups that represent a religious or political affiliation may not approach people walking through the Lobby and/or Commons. The person must make the decision to approach their tables to receive information.
Exactly what is considered political or religious is left undefined, meaning that any number of issue-centered groups could be subject to this policy. CBUSU therefore creates two “classes” of student groups: those whose message could be considered religious or political in nature, and those whose message is not considered religious or political in nature. The latter group has a clear advantage in spreading their message since they can use the high-traffic areas like the Lobby and the Commons, and can directly engage students in conversation about their issue or cause. But the former group is denied these important channels.
The CBUSU Elections Act, Section Nine-1: Publicity Material Policy, states that “Publicity materials must not violate the spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” and that “negative campaigning” will result in demerit points.
CBUSU’s Society Application and Regulations state as a condition of ratification that:
The society must not have a purpose that conflicts with the Students’ Union mission and vision statements.
The society must not have the same purpose as any society that has already been ratified by the Students’ Union for the academic year.
The society must not exclude any member of the Students’ Union based on the grounds of age, race, colour, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender, physical or mental ability, ethnic, national, or aboriginal origin, family status, marital status, source of income or political belief, association or anything that violates human rights.
The society’s activities must not infringe on the rights or privileges of others, which include the rights to privacy and freedom of expression and association.
The Society Application and Regulations further state that a society may be de-ratified if it “is guilty of any other conduct that the SRC deems as unbecoming of a CBUSU society.”
CBUSU officials have considerable discretion to restrict what they may consider “inappropriate” speech on campus. The CBUSU Poster Policy reads, “Posters seeking approval must not have any inappropriate imagery or text.”
The CBUSU does not take positions outside of its mandate.
The authors are not aware of the CBUSU actively discriminating against students, faculty or invited guests on campus based on the content of their speech.
In the 2018–19 financial year,* Cape Breton University received $24,420,599 in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants. These taxpayer funds accounted for 27.4% of their annual revenue.
*Cape Breton University did not make their 2019–20 financial statements available by the time of publication of the 2020 Campus Freedom Index.