|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 Freedom of Expression Statement and Policy concludes:
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.
OCAD’s 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.”
Further, 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:
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 OCAD Non-Academic Misconduct Policy prohibits disruptive behaviour, which is defined as:
Conduct that materially and substantially interferes with or obstructs teaching, learning and work in the context of the OCAD environment. By action, threat, written material, or by any means whatsoever, disrupting or obstructing any University activities, or other authorized activities on premises of the University, or the right of another person to carry on his/her legitimate activities, or to speak or to associate with others. University activities include, but are not limited to, teaching, research, studying, administration and meetings.
OCAD is home to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Sustainability Initiatives (ODESI). The ODESI has a vision of:
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 10, 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 Associate 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 cannot 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) does not reference free expression.
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.
All student applicants for “Micro-Grant” funds from OCADSU must abide by the Safer Space Mandate.
OCADSU also runs a Social Justice Library:
The Student Union is dedicated to creating safe spaces that are inclusive and welcoming. We aim toward deconstructing colonialism, capitalism, misogyny and all the -isms, addressing continued systemic oppression. The Social Justice Library will work towards our mandate by educating and creating conversations with students about issues around social justice, diversity, equity, race, gender, and sexuality in a safe and inclusive space. The Library features books, zines, and other texts, and is located inside the SU office.
OCAD Student Union By-Laws Section 20 – Electoral Guidelines – restricts campaign material content and subjects the campaigning material to the discretion of an Elections Committee:
20.2 The campaigning for elected positions will take place using the following criteria:
OCADSU maintains an Anti-Oppression Principle in the Student Union By-Laws:
This practice of anti-oppression is rooted in the understanding that the Sovereignty of Indigenous Nations is preeminent and that the traditional knowledge and forms of social organization of Indigenous peoples are a counter balance to the forms of oppression we are opposed to. Our practice of anti-oppression is rooted in the decolonization of this territory in support of the traditional laws and legal frameworks of our host Indigenous nations.
These power inequities created by colonialism and capitalism, which are socially constructed or learned ideologies create hierarchical relationships that benefit settler or capitalist individuals or groups especially white, cis-gendered, european, and affluent individuals and groups, while marginalizing others, either implicitly or explicitly. Oppression occurs when a person or group is denied inherent rights as guaranteed by treaty or constitutional law, are excluded from opportunities for self development, disallowed full participation in society, and/or denied equal or equitable rights of the dominant group. Such limitations are not related to individual talent, merit or failure, but because of identity or membership to a particular group of people.
Deconstructing and ‘unlearning’ oppression is possible by engaging in ongoing conscious and active processes of challenging previously held personal and organizational values, beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes. Oppression is learned and therefore anti-oppression can be viewed as a process of identifying, deconstructing, and trying to ‘unlearn’ privilege and privileged narratives.
The authors found no evidence of OCADSU discriminating against students because of their views, nor of OCADSU censoring unpopular speech on campus.
In the 2018–19 financial year,* OCAD University received $26,925,925 in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants. These taxpayer funds accounted for 30.4% of their annual revenue.
*OCAD University did not make their 2019–20 financial statements available by the time of publication of the 2020 Campus Freedom Index.