|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) names “Academic Freedom” as one of its five core Values, although its Vision and Mission statements do not mention free speech or academic freedom.
MSVU published a Freedom of Expression Statement in June 2019. It reads, in part:
We recognize that some forms of expression have served to silence, exclude, and harm members of some communities, particularly those from marginalized groups. We are committed both to protecting freedom of expression and creating an inclusive learning environment where all members of our community have the full opportunity to engage in free expression and inquiry.
There are limits on freedom of expression. Canada’s laws restrict illegal forms of expression such as threats, defamation, discrimination, harassment, unjustified and substantial invasion of privacy and confidentiality, and hate speech. Other limits on free expression that apply to Mount community members include adherence to the University’s Harassment and Discrimination Policy and other applicable policies, contractual employment obligations for Mount faculty and staff, and the Code of Conduct for students. Activities associated with freedom of expression must not jeopardize the physical safety of members.
Context affects how freedom of expression is practiced and upheld. In formal learning settings, diverse ideas and arguments enhance university life. All students should have the opportunity to engage in free expression and inquiry in their courses. Students have the right to learning environments characterized by the expression of ideas that support active learning and engagement, which means that they may encounter instructional material or course discussions that challenge their views.
Outside formal learning settings, Mount community members are encouraged to participate in campus events, forums, and discussions. When confronted with ideas or viewpoints with which they disagree, Mount members can choose not to participate or express their dissent through engaging in debate, hosting alternative events, inviting speakers to express opposing views, and/or being part of non-violent protests or similar productive forums. All forms of expression should be undertaken in a manner that recognizes the rights of others to free expression.
Section 1.0 of the “Student Charter of Rights and Responsibilities” in MSVU’s Non-Academic Disciplinary Policy explains which rights and privileges students enjoy on campus. Section 1.1 (b) and (g) are relevant to free expression:
Students can expect to:
Under Section 1.2(a) of the Non-Academic Discipline Policy, “Student Responsibilities”, ambiguous language enables administrators to censor speech if it is considered to threaten or endanger the “dignity” of any person:
As members of the University community, students are expected to contribute to making it safe, respectful and inclusive. Conduct which threatens or endangers the health, safety, well-being or dignity of any person contravenes university regulations.
The authors are not aware of MSVU engaging in ideological advocacy via a university body such as a diversity office.
The authors are not aware of any cases of Mount Saint Vincent University discriminating against students on the basis of their speech, nor of the University censoring student-held events, lectures and other functions.
The Mount Saint Vincent University Students’ Union (MSVUSU) does not reference free expression in their Mission, Vision, Values, or 2016-2020 Strategic Plan Goals.
MSVUSU Policy XVI - Freedom of Expression says:
16.1 Student expression is constitutionally protected and may not be censored. Student expression may not be censored simply because it is controversial, because Student Union officials dislike its content or because it offers harsh criticism of them and/or their policies. Publications, which are otherwise lawful (i.e., they contain no libel, obscenity or other legally unprotected speech) cannot be punished or censored for content-based reasons.
In order to be ratified, student societies must submit an application for approval by the MSVUSU Vice President for Student Life. Restrictions on the “purpose” of a student club, found in Policy I - Societies, includes the passage, “The society must not have a purpose that conflicts with the MSVUSU’s mission and vision statements.”
Policy I - Societies also states, in regards to de-ratification:
3.4. The de-ratification of a society entails the loss of MSVUSU society status and all privileges granted to the society by the MSVUSU.
3.4.1. In the case where the Society Affairs Committee believes that there is cause for de-ratification, the committee shall give notice of motion to de-ratify to the SRC and notify the society that notice has been given.
3.4.2. The motion to de-ratify a society must receive fifty percent plus one majority of the SRC in order to be successful.
By-Law I, Election and Referendum, Item 9.6, allows the Elections Coordinator to wield significant power over campaign materials: “Any forms of advertising must be approved by the Elections Coordinator prior to their posting around campus.”
The MSVUSU Advertising and Sponsorship Policy bans “material that demeans or discriminates based on gender, race, sexuality, age, disability or religious beliefs.”
The authors are not aware of the MSVUSU taking official positions on issues outside their mandate.
The authors found no cases of the student union discriminating against students or student groups on the basis of their speech, nor of the union denying access to space and resources to student groups because of their views.
In the 2018–19 financial year,* Mount Saint Vincent University received $28,504,854 in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants. These taxpayer funds accounted for 44.1% of their annual revenue.
*Mount Saint Vincent University did not make their 2019–20 financial statements available by the time of publication of the 2020 Campus Freedom Index.