|Student Union Policies
|Student Union Practices
Nipissing University (Nipissing) enacted a new Free Speech Policy in December 2018, as part of a new mandate by the Ontario government to protect free expression on campus. The Policy states:
According to the Nipissing University Act, “The objects of the University are the pursuit of learning through scholarship, teaching and research within a spirit of free enquiry and expression.”
Consequently, Nipissing University defines the articulation and discussion of ideas and opinions that are directed toward the achievement of these objects as freedom of speech. Students, faculty, administrators, staff and guests are encouraged to identify, challenge and criticize barriers or obstacles to these objects.
Relatedly, Nipissing University strives to create a teaching and research environment that is inclusive, diverse, welcoming and safe within this spirit of free enquiry and expression. While students and/or other individuals may encounter ideas or opinions that they disagree with or even find offensive at times, these ideas and opinions need still be offered to advance the objects of the institution.
This policy is not meant to contravene existing policies such as the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the Policy on Political Activities and Events, the Respectful Workplace & Harassment Prevention Policy, or relevant legislation such as the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Nipissing’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities includes a clause vaguely prohibiting disruption:
The University reserves the right to terminate, at any time, its relationship with any student whose *disruptive behaviour is deemed to be detrimental to the purposes and goals of the University. All students should be familiar with the regulations printed in the University Calendar as well as specific policies published from time to time.
*Definition - Disruptive behaviour applies to behaviour that persistently or grossly interferes with academic and administrative activities or reputation of the University.
The Code’s Preamble on Student Rights states:
At Nipissing University, students are free to think, speak, write, create, study, learn, pursue social, cultural and other interests, and freely associate together for all these purposes, subject to the requirement that they respect the rights of members of the University and general community to pursue these same freedoms and privileges. In order to secure these rights, the University will use its best efforts to ensure the following:
- that those who wish to teach and those who wish to learn can do so under proper conditions; that academic and general facilities are available to those who wish to use them for their normal purposes;
- that freedom of movement and freedom from harassment are protected;
- that all property, including records, documents, and the like is protected; that those who wish to file a complaint have the right to do so without fear of reprisal.
The Code also states that Nipissing students are expected:
...to refrain from conduct which harms or threatens harm to the proper functioning of University programs or activities both on and off campus which include but may not be limited to teaching, studying, research, administration, student events, meetings and other services; the rights of members or guests of the University; the safety and well-being of members or guests of the University and surrounding community; and the property of the University or of its members or guests.
Nipissing’s Acceptable Use Policy prohibits “offensive” computer content which is defined as any use of the resources which may reasonably be considered to offend other members of the community to such an extent that it may hinder them from using the system. Examples are given including “use of the resources to harass others,” and “use of publicly accessible resources to display material which is likely to conflict with the sensibilities of others, whether such material is in the form of text, image, sound or other digitized data.”
Nipissing has a Policy on Political Activities and Events which states:
Nipissing University is committed to free and open discussion and the exchange of ideas and opinions on issues that affect the wider community, including the expression of political views, within its campus. Nipissing University encourages students, faculty and staff to exercise their civic rights to participate as individuals in the political process. Our status as an institution of higher education puts our faculty members in a position to provide expert commentary on local, provincial and federal issues, and to make meaningful contributions to public debate on a variety of wide-reaching public policy issues.
This Policy requires that:
Faculty, Staff and Board members may freely engage in comment on political issues or public policy as individuals, but shall refrain from purporting to be presenting the official position of the University. If a faculty, staff or board member is listed as a supporter of a political campaign or initiative it should be without mention of institutional affiliation or with a disclaimer indicating that their actions and statements are their own and not those of Nipissing University.
The authors are not aware of Nipissing University engaging in ideological advocacy through a university body, such as by establishing a diversity office.
The authors are not aware of Nipissing University actively discriminating against its students and other members of the University on the basis of their views.
The Nipissing University Student Union (NUSU) does not reference free expression in its Vision Statement, Mission Statement, or Objectives.
The NUSU Clubs Policy says:
2 (A). The existence and activities of clubs must not impose a legal liability on, or damage the interests of NUSU.
5.3 (D). Certain clubs may be restricted from receiving clubs funding. These include, but are not limited to, clubs that are politically affiliated, religiously based, or are otherwise exclusive in their membership.
6.1 (B). The Vice-President Student Life has the final authority to de-ratify a club.
Candidates running in a NUSU election are subject to a strict speech code, as per the Elections Policy:
4.1. All Candidates running for election and associated campaign teams shall:
4.1.1. Be courteous, polite and respectful to the electorate, other Candidates and their campaign teams, the Elections Committee, the Appeals Committee, Executive members and director members currently serving in office, the staff of NUSU and the staff at Nipissing University;
4.1.2. Refrain from harassment or otherwise “aggressive campaigning” towards any member of the student body or electorate regardless of whether or not they have chosen to exercise their vote;
4.1.3. Refrain from slander, defamation of character, harassment, verbal or physical abuse, threats, sabotage of other campaigns;
4.1.4. Refrain at all times from excessive profanity, slander, derogatory statements, or disrespecting the election process;
4.1.5. Never issue, condone or otherwise endorse offensive statements regarding culture, race or group of persons
The authors are not aware of NUSU advocating for positions outside of their mandate.
The authors are not aware of the NUSU discriminating against students because of their views, nor of denying access to resources on campus to students or student groups with unpopular messages.
In the 2018–19 financial year,* Nipissing University received $40,341,000 in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants. These taxpayer funds accounted for 48.8% of their annual revenue.
*Nipissing University did not make their 2019–20 financial statements available by the time of publication of the 2020 Campus Freedom Index.