|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
In 2018, OCAD University (OCAD) passed a new University Freedom of Expression Statement and Policy as mandated by the government of Ontario, which defines freedom of expression as:
… any activity that conveys or attempts to convey a meaning but does not include violence or the threat of violence or hate speech. Restrictions on freedom of expression can only be justified if they constitute a limit that is reasonable in a free and democratic society such as Canada. Expression that others find repugnant or offensive will not for that reason alone be unacceptable. OCAD University is concerned, however, with expression that causes discrimination or other harmful effects. Freedom of expression applies to all members of the University community, including faculty, students, staff, management and guests.
The University’s existing legislation and policies illustrate an appropriate application of these principles.
The Policy elaborates on numerous limits to the University’s commitment to freedom of expression:
The University is committed to upholding all fundamental human rights, including freedom of association, freedom of conscience, opinion and belief, and freedom of thought, inquiry, artistic and creative expression. Nothing in this policy is to be interpreted, administered or applied in a way that infringes upon academic freedom, or upon legal conduct between individuals that is based on mutual consent. Nothing in this policy is to be understood to prevent any faculty, employee, or student, from instructing, evaluating and engaging in fair criticism or another’s behaviour of performance.”
This is to be read together with s.5.3 “Responsibility” which requires the University community to be “cognizant of the fact that working and learning can best be accomplished in a climate of understanding and mutual respect and that harassment and discrimination can occur even when there is no intention to harass or offend another person.”
“establishing, contributing to, and maintaining a respectful environment by demonstrating respect for others, and not be condoning and/or engaging in conduct that is inconsistent with the law or this policy.”
It mandates action by the University community that is consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code. It acknowledges that the University has a commitment “to academic freedom and freedom of thought, inquiry and expression which may result in respectful disagreements regarding beliefs and principles; and it cannot condone behaviour that is likely to undermine the dignity, self-esteem or productivity of any of its members….
“OCAD U is committed to an inclusive and respectful working and learning environment, free from harassment, discrimination and/or bullying.”
The University community, as part of its Non-Academic Misconduct Policy, June 1, 2009, prohibits the dissemination of “hate material” which includes “…literature and posters distributed to incite violence or hatred against an identifiable group.”
Violation of this policy thus is governed by the Non-Academic Misconduct Policy, June 1, 2009.
Students are subject to prosecution under that Policy. Faculty complaints will be dealt with in accordance with theMemorandum of Agreement 2016-2020, Article 5 and Appendix A: Association of University and Colleges of Canada Statement on Academic Freedom and Institutional Autonomy. Any allegation against the University itself will be dealt with in writing by the President of the University or the President’s delegate. Any unresolved complaint may be referred to the Ontario Ombudsman.
Academic freedom is central to this issue. OCAD University’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy commits the university to “…upholding all fundamental human rights, including freedom of association, freedom of conscience, opinion and belief, and freedom of thought, inquiry, artistic and creative expression.”
Universities are places for open discussion and free inquiry, and that is especially true of a university dedicated to art and design. Thus, members of the University community may debate and contest different views, but they may not obstruct or interfere with the freedom of expression of others. OCAD University is committed to protecting freedom of expression for all its members and guests.
The University provides services and facilities and thus is bound by the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Criminal Code of Canada, particularly s319. We recognize that both the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code of Canada do impose limits on expression and that our responsibility extends to ensuring compliance with this legislation.
The Respectful Work & Learning Environment (RWLE) policy states:
OCAD recognizes the importance of certain rights and freedoms at a university dedicated to intellectual inquiry and creative practice. The University is committed to upholding all fundamental human rights, including freedom of association, freedom of conscience, opinion and belief, and freedom of thought, inquiry, artistic and creative expression. Nothing in this policy is to be interpreted, administered or applied in a way that infringes upon academic freedom, or upon legal conduct between individuals that is based on mutual consent. Nothing in this policy is to be understood to prevent any faculty, employee, or student, from instructing, evaluating and engaging in fair criticism of another’s behaviour or performance.
The RWLE also states in Section 5.4 that it has “a commitment to academic freedom and freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression which may result in respectful disagreements regarding beliefs and principles,” but that OCAD “cannot condone behaviour that is likely to undermine the dignity, self-esteem or productivity of any of its members, whether such behaviour occurs on University premises or in conjunction with University-related activities.”
The RWLE defines bullying as “a form of repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour that is directed at an individual or individuals, and is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem or reputation. Bullying usually occurs in the context where there is a real or perceived imbalance of power.”
Examples of bullying include:
Under “Student Rights and Responsibilities” OCAD’s Non-Academic Misconduct Policy states:
Students may think, speak, write, create, study, learn, pursue social, cultural and other interests and associate together for these purposes subject to the principles of mutual respect for the dignity, worth and rights of others as outlined by the Ontario Human Rights Code. All members of the University community, as members of society at large, are responsible to abide by federal, provincial and municipal laws in addition to University regulations.
It states further that OCAD “upholds and will take reasonable steps to ensure students of the following privileges:
1.Participation in University and Student Government: Students may participate in formulation and application of institutional policy affecting academic, extra-curricular and Student union affairs.
The Non-Academic Misconduct Policy provides examples on what constitutes non-academic misconduct, in Section II:
Membership in the University Community implies acceptance by every student of the principle of mutual respect for the rights, responsibilities, dignity and well-being of others and a readiness to support an environment conducive to the intellectual and personal growth of all who study, work and live within it.
Any conduct on the part of a student that has, or might reasonably be seen to have, an adverse effect on the reputation or the proper functioning of the University, or the health, safety, rights or property of the University, its members or visitors, is subject to discipline under this Policy.
The list of examples, which is meant to be non-exhaustive, includes:
Another example, “Misconduct Against Persons and Dangerous Activity” includes “conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person, such as a threat of harm on another person,” “knowingly (which includes when one should reasonably have known) creating a
condition that endangers the health, safety, or well-being of any person,” and “distribution of hate-material.” Under “Other” examples of non-academic misconduct, OCAD states that “[a]ny other conduct that has, or might reasonably be seen to have, an adverse effect on the reputation or the proper functioning of the University, or the health safety, rights or property of the University, its members or visitors.”
Section II(B) of the Non-Academic Misconduct Policy governs Electronic Communications:
[OCAD] is committed to building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive community where our students, staff, faculty and visitors can work and learn in an environment that supports the mission of the University, adheres to University policies, and respects the dignity and worth of members of the University Community. The means through which we express ourselves as members of this community continue to evolve with the advent of technology. The University is supportive of these types of community, as they can greatly enhance the social and learning experiences for people working and studying at OCAD. The use of such technologies comes with both rights and responsibilities.
Community members are reminded that images, postings, dialogues, and information about themselves or others posted on the internet (e.g. on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook) are open to public scrutiny. While University officials do not actively monitor these sites, content that is brought to the attention of the University which describes or documents behaviour that may constitute a breach of University policy will be the subject of a further investigation.
The University does not condone the inappropriate use of electronic and print communications. This is defined as the intentional use of an electronic device or communication media, such as, but not limited to, all features of a telephone, a mobile phone, digital camera, blackberry, e-mails, web-based communication sites and print materials, such as flyers, University newspapers and brochures, that negatively impacts on the well-being of another person or is directed at an individual or individuals causing fear or distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem or reputation.
The University reserves the right to appropriately respond to these incidents, which may include disciplinary action, up to and including possible recommendation for expulsion.
OCAD maintains a policy on the Temporary Installation of Student Artwork, which states as its Purpose:
When student artwork is installed in [OCAD] public spaces, it can impact on others. Risk assessment is essential, but does not necessarily mean that artwork needs to be altered in any way. The Safety & Risk Management and Campus Security Offices will do everything reasonable to facilitate the safe exhibition of artwork, but reserve the right to refuse any exhibition deemed to have an unacceptably high degree of risk.
The activities of student groups are governed by the University. The Student Organization Recognition Policy states:
While [Student Organizations] are somewhat autonomous, their actions reflect upon the University community as a whole. Therefore it is agreed that they are required to abide by all University policies and procedures. Recognition of a student organization neither implies endorsement of said group’s beliefs or philosophy by the University, or the assumption of liability for the group’s activities.
This policy is based on the role of the University in promoting freedom of expression and also maintaining the obligations which students assume on becoming members of the University community. Freedom of expression is a principle which is essential to the pursuit of knowledge and the practice of art and design. This principle requires the ability to question and debate many subjects, even the most controversial.
While promoting freedom of expression, the University also has a concurrent responsibility to ensure that all members of the community can reasonably expect to pursue their work and studies in a safe and civil environment. Therefore the University does not condone discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, invasion of personal privacy, threatening or violent conduct or offences against University property.
Among the requirements for recognition of student groups is that they be “primarily directed towards and include OCAD students” and that they “contribute to the educational, social, or cultural values of the University.” De-registration or suspension of registration occurs if “the group’s stated objectives or activities or the manner of carrying out its activities would, in the opinion of the Co-Chairs, by their very nature, lead to justifiable complaints under the Human Rights Code (and/or any other human rights legislation that applies in this Province) and/or municipal bylaws, Provincial or Federal statures or regulations.”
The OCAD U Poster Policy states regarding content that all posters must be “of general interest to the entire OCAD community.”
OCAD’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Sustainability Services provides optional orientation week trainings for students designed to educate them about inclusion, consent, and anti-oppression issues.
The Office staffs three employees which facilitate “annual training for the OCAD U community on Preventing and Responding to Harassment, Discrimination, and Bullying under OCAD U’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy and regular sessions on Human Rights Based Accommodations and on Creating Authentic Spaces: A Gender Identity and Gender Expression Inclusion Workshop.”
In September 2013 an “anonymous” group of faculty, students and alumni formed an association called “OCAD Us” to voice their dissatisfaction with the administration and leadership at OCAD, over issues of bathroom quality, representation and student life. The group has a twitter following (@Ocad_Us) of more than 700 people and an active Facebook group. The group did not seek ratification because, according to members, they did not want to name the members of the group to OCAD’s administration for fear of retaliation.
The group decided to hang a poster called “Make OCAD Us” inside the main campus buildings (100-113 McCaul), which was removed by campus security. More posters were put up November 9, stating: “What’s your Problem? At OCAD U”, and left space for students to share their thoughts about campus life. These were also removed by campus security.
On November 10th, a post was made on the OCAD Us Facebook page quoting the university as saying to representatives of the group:
We routinely clean up posters around campus, as per our poster and student organization recognition policies. Did we make a mistake? Are you a recognized student group or club initiative?
We welcome all discussion. As per the comment on your other post, we routinely clean up posters around campus, as per our poster and student organization recognition policies. Let us know if you're a recognized student group or a club that we've mistakenly misidentified.
The group re-posted the same posters that were removed November 9th, and these posters were removed again on November 11th. On November 20th, security removed posters for the 6th time. A photo is provided by these students of an alleged security guard removing the poster.
On November 27th, Thomas Hart and Ksenia Soldatenko (OCAD students and representatives of the group) met with Assoc. VP Deanne Fisher about the removal of their posters on six occasions. Ms. Fisher informed the students that they would stop removing the group’s posters if they removed mention of OCAD University’s name from the posters. The students agreed to black out OCAD U’s name. Anonymous members of OCAD Us reported on the meeting:
We were asked about the group and who was involved. We were told that the school was using an outdated policy since 2006. We were told we can not use the school name in our posters (no policy shown). Told that we had to report what was written to the admin first because "Students might want to write that they are willing to kill themselves" and therefore security must know first so they can help the student. We were told that [OCAD Us] is making the school look bad and we shouldn't do that. Security gets word from the admin on poster removal
Campus security does not always remove posters after a specific time period, as these students note posters which continue to hang on the bulletin boards and walls that date back to September of 2013. OCAD Us stated on its Facebook group that:
The majority of OCAD Us posters—posted on "all other floors" were removed. There is no clause stating that only "recognized student groups" may poster—so OCAD U leadership has breached its own policy. Certainly OCAD Us initiatives are of "general interest to the entire OCAD community.”
The Mission and Mandate of the OCAD Student Union (OCADSU) includes: “to develop and manage services and activities that foster a positive and creative educational environment at OCAD U,” “participate in the development, enforcement and revision of academic and non-academic policies in an effort to promote students’ best interests” and “provide students with an effective voice in the decision-making at OCAD U.”
OCADSU’s Safer Space Mandate states:
We ask all people who enter the SU to be respectful and non-discriminatory towards all staff and students in the space. We ask you to check your assumptions at the door and to be reminded that violent, discriminatory or harmful behaviour will not be tolerated.
A “SAFE(R) SPACE” is a space that has been declared free of all types of violence and harassment, including but not limited to sexual assault, non-consensual behaviour or attitudes, being intolerant of someone’s religious or political beliefs (or lack of), racism, sexism, gender discrimination, homophobia, queerphobia, ableism, heterosexism, cissexism, or any other behaviour or language that may perpetuate oppression or discrimination. It is declared as an open and accepting space, and therefore will facilitate feelings of safety for any person who enters it.
Anyone can set-up a safe space on campus to discuss complicated, personal or political topics and situations. Designate an area that is accessible to all folks participating. Lay some ground rules together that will ensure the freedom and safety for all to attend, and participate without having to face harassment and discrimination.
OCADSU does not make policies governing student conduct, events, student groups and elections available to the public.
The authors found no evidence of OCADSU discriminating against students because of their views, nor of OCADSU censoring unpopular speech on campus.