|Student Union Policies
|Student Union Practices
Free expression is not referenced in Dalhousie’s Mission or Vision statements.
Dalhousie University’s Code of Student Conduct (Code) states at section II.A.5: “Nothing in this Code shall be construed to prohibit peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, or lawful picketing, or to inhibit freedom of speech.”
Section II.C.1. of the Code states, in part:
No student shall engage in a course of vexatious conduct, harassment or discrimination that is directed at one or more specific persons and that is based on the age, race, colour, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, physical disability, mental disability, an irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease, ethnic or national or aboriginal origin, family status, marital status, source of income, political belief or affiliation or activity of that person or of those with whom he or she associates.
Further, in section II.C.2, the Code states:
No student shall, by action, threat or otherwise, disrupt, obstruct or adversely affect any activity organized by Dalhousie University or by any of its faculties, schools or departments, or the right of other persons to carry on their legitimate activities, to speak or to associate with others.
Section C.1.C states that “[n]o student shall create a condition that unnecessarily endangers the health or safety of other persons.”
Dalhousie’s Sexualized Violence Policy states in its Background & Purpose:
The University occupies a special place in society as an intellectual community with a responsibility for the discovery and sharing of knowledge. This aspiration demands a commitment to an atmosphere of reciprocal respect among all members of the university community. Sexual harassment potentially undermines the full and free participation of all members of the community by negatively impacting on an individual’s employment conditions or academic status or performance or by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or academic environment.
The Sexualized Violence Policy defines verbal sexual harassment as follows:
The authors are not aware of Dalhousie University providing funding or resources to any university body that engages in ideological advocacy.
Advanced Summit Halifax, “a leadership development bootcamp”, was scheduled to occur at Dalhousie in November 2019, though the event was not affiliated with the university itself. DalOUT, the campus’s LGBTQ2+ society, and the Dalhousie Students’ Union (DSU), lobbied the university administration to cancel the event, as one of the speakers was former People’s Party of Canada candidate Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson. Despite the efforts to get the event cancelled, Dalhousie proceeded with allowing the Advanced Summit to host their event on campus.
In the lead up to Canada 150 celebrations, in June 2017, undergraduate student Masuma Khan made remarks on social media critical of the University's celebration of Canada 150, which Khan regarded as honouring a legacy of colonialism and genocide against indigenous peoples. In the social media post, Khan, a Muslim woman of colour, called on the university to stand with its Indigenous students by cancelling any celebrations planned to mark the date. She also shot back at those who had criticized Dal’s student union for adopting a motion to opt out of any potential Canada 150 events on campus.
“At this point…f*** you all,” Khan wrote, along with “#whitefragilitycankissmyass.”
The University alleged Khan breached the student code of conduct in her comments, and launched a senate disciplinary investigation into her behaviour.
In September 2017, following widespread criticism and backlash over its decision to investigate Khan, the University terminated the investigation.
The DDS Gentlemen’s Club was a private Facebook group where up to sixteen students from Dalhousie’s dentistry program would share jokes and discuss campus life. Upon receiving 54 screenshots of the page from a female student on December 8, 2014, which the student believed constituted harassment and bullying, the University’s Vice-Provost of Student Affairs determined that the postings in the screenshots were not a violation of the University’s Code of Student Conduct.
The student who brought forward the screenshots wanted the students prosecuted under the Code. Instead, the Vice-Provost determined that the complaint fell under the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy, and through the Office of Human Rights, Equity and Harassment Prevention, initiated a restorative justice process to address the complaint.
Thirteen fourth-year dentistry students who had made posts to the Facebook page were suspended from dental clinics for two months on January 5, 2015—halting a component of their program needed to graduate. On January 9, the University mandated that these students attend the classes they needed to graduate remotely and separately from their classmates.
Twelve of the thirteen students underwent the restorative justice program, which involved attending meetings, apologizing to students and the community, and other measures. One of the thirteen students, Ryan Millet, opted not to participate in the restorative justice process. Millet underwent a disciplinary committee hearing which ruled that he had engaged in unprofessional conduct and must undergo a remediation process. Millet has stated to media and through his lawyers that his involvement in the Facebook group amounted to clicking the “Like” button on postings made by other members of the Facebook group, which he describes as “guilt by association.”
After initially refusing to provide the screenshots of the Facebook postings to Halifax police, on January 13, 2015, the University reversed its decision and provided the screenshots to police, who determined that the postings were not criminal.
Dalhousie University commissioned a Task Force to make recommendations to address the “culture of misogyny” on campus and its response to the incident. Some of the Task Force report’s recommendations include:
The University’s President issued a statement in response to the Task Force report wherein he accepted the report’s recommendations “fully”.
In March of 2011, the student group Pro-Life at Dal (PLAD) organized a debate on abortion. The Vice-President of Student Services required PLAD to pay a $350 security fee, and also imposed other conditions. On the night of the debate, the club was suddenly told that security officers would not intervene if any disruptions occurred. The room was vandalized prior to the event, and stink bombs went off intermittently throughout the debate. Dalhousie Security did not intervene at any point, and made no effort to find out who vandalized the room and disrupted the event.
PLAD’s president wrote to the Vice-President of Student Services and expressed concern about Dalhousie’s failure to provide adequate security, and how this failure emboldens those who would disrupt future events. The University has not apologized for its inaction, and has not taken corrective measures to ensure future events did not face the same poor treatment and lack of protection.
In November of 2010, controversial British MP George Galloway was scheduled to speak at Dalhousie, but the University deemed him to be a security risk (“because he speaks about controversial topics”) and demanded extra money for increased security services. This forced the event to be held off-campus.
In 2007, Jared Taylor was invited to the University to debate a professor on racial diversity. Several weeks before the scheduled debate was to be held, the University issued a statement saying it “learned more about the background and standpoint of the others involved in the proposed debate and has concluded a debate with people who held such views would not be a useful way to explore the topic [of racial diversity]” and cancelled the debate.
Upholding free expression is not mentioned as an object of the Dalhousie Students’ Union (DSU).
The DSU passed a motion on June 28, 2017 (and again on July 19, 2017) that it would not partake in Canada Day as an “act of solidarity with our indigenous members”. The motion reads:
Whereas the Dalhousie Student Union recognizes the struggles of Indigenous students and strives to advocate for and support them
And whereas, the Dalhousie Student Union recognizes the current celebration of Canada day as an act of colonialism.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Dalhousie Student Union will not partake in the promotion and celebration of Canada day on Dalhousie Campus.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Dalhousie Student Union will not have any events celebrating Canada day take place in the Dalhousie Student Union building.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Dalhousie Student Union will not partake in the promotion or celebration of any Canada 150 programming.
The DSU Equity Policy reads:
In accordance with the aims of this policy, the following statement will be posted and/or read aloud to participants at all events of the Union:
It is our collective responsibility to create an inclusive space for discussion and dialogue. Any form or forms of discrimination and/or harassment will not be tolerated, nor will hate speech rooted in, but not limited to, sexist, racist, classist, ableist, homophobic or transphobic sentiments and/or remarks. We all have an obligation to ensure that an open and inclusive space, free of hate is established. If you violate this understanding, you will be asked to leave.
The DSU Society Policy states:
1.1 No Society may have a purpose that conflicts with the Union’s objectives as outlined in the Bylaws.
5.1 Societies have the responsibility to take all necessary precautions to keep their members safe while hosting or participating in events and activities.
5.2 Societies are required to attend any mandatory training offered by the Union,as determined by the Society Review Committee.
6.3 In order to be ratified each Faculty and Levied Society President must
complete anti-oppression training.
The Elections Policy of the Dalhousie Student Union says:
Candidate displays and the distribution of literature on campus are subject to the approval of the Elections Committee. All candidates shall inform and have the approval of the CRO for any such activity that they plan to undertake.
In November 2019, in response to former People’s Party of Canada candidate Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson speaking at a leadership summit taking place on the university campus, the DSU called on Dalhousie to cancel the event. The leadership summit, Advanced Summit Halifax, was unaffiliated with the university itself, but the DSU alleged that the event was harmful to 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.
The DSU’s statement said, in part:
As the DSU, we aim to create safer spaces for our student body and are disappointed in Dalhousie’s lack of action at this time. We have asked that Dalhousie University use this as an opportunity to support its students’ needs and cancel this event. We are also asking that Dalhousie review their conference procedures to ensure that they are eliminating the opportunity for speakers to incite hatred or discriminatory treatment on campus. We encourage Dalhousie University to apologize to its student body and acknowledge the harm that this has caused to our campus community.