|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
St. Francis Xavier University’s (StFX) Community Code lays out general rules of behaviour, as well as the rights and responsibilities of students. Students are expected to uphold “the responsibility not to indulge in behavior that has serious ramifications for the safety, welfare and academic well-being of yourself and others.”
Section 17(f) of the Code includes the following as a major offense:
Using abusive, sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise derogatory language in either verbal or written form, or gesture in the course of his or her interactions with another Student, Guest, or University Official.
As per section 17(j), the Code lists “Tampering with, damaging or altering fire safety equipment, including but not limited to: setting off a false fire alarm” as a major offense. The pulling of false fire alarms have been used in past cases to shut down speakers.
Additionally, section 17(q) considers “Causing a disturbance which for any reason disrupts the good order of the University community” a major offense.
StFX’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy Section 1.2 protects political and religious groups on campus by including “political belief, affiliation or identity” as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
Section 9 states that the Discrimination and Harassment Policy should not interfere with free speech and academic freedom, but does impose the requirement that such expression be “mutually respectful and non-coercive”:
This Policy shall not be applied in such a way as to detract from the right to engage in the frank discussion of potentially controversial matters, including, but not limited to age, race, politics, religion, sex and sexual orientation. These are legitimate topics within the University setting, and this Policy shall not be applied so as to have the effect of limiting appropriate discussion of them or of prohibiting bona fide instructional techniques, such as the use of irony, the use of conjecture and refutation, or the assignment of readings that advocate controversial positions, provided that such discussion and instruction are conducted in a mutually respectful and non-coercive manner.
Sections 1.3, 1.4 and 1.5 of the Discrimination and Harassment Policy define harassment to include being made to feel “offended or unwelcome”. Section 1.4 goes on to say that verbal harassment may be deliberate or unintentional.
StFX’s Student Event Risk Management Policy outlines procedures and regulations that students and student groups must comply with in order to access space for an event on campus. Applicants must submit a detailed overview of their event, including the intent and composition of the event, as well as advertising and other promotional materials. Applicants must include an assessment of the level of risk associated with their event. According to the Policy, risk can include an assessment of “emotional harm” to an attendee.
The Risk Management Committee enforces the Risk Assessment Policy. It decides if an event gets approved after the student group has informed the Committee whether they think the event carries a high, medium or low risk level. The Committee is effectively empowered to decide that an event is too risky because of the content or message of the expression at the event.
The authors are not aware of StFX’s Department of Human Rights and Equity promoting ideological advocacy.
On February 10, 2009, the student group Students for Life invited pro-life author and lecturer Jose Ruba to speak at StFX. The club’s president, Lara Lavelle, commended the University administration for ensuring that the event was able to take place. Ruba’s presentation at neighboring Saint Mary’s University in Halifax a week earlier had to be cancelled at its original location due to protesters making Ruba’s talk impossible to hear.
In light of the controversy at Saint Mary’s University, StFX administration made apparent efforts to ensure that Ruba’s presentation on February 10 would not be stopped by similar protests. Campus security personnel were ordered to monitor the event so that the presentation could run without interruption.
On December 11, 2006, tenured StFX professor Shiraz Dossa attended a conference sponsored by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, titled “The Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision,” in Tehran. More than 1200 attended, and the event included 44 speakers and 33 papers on the subject of the Holocaust.
On December 13, 2006, StFX University President Sean Riley released the following statement:
I express my shock and regret that the name of St. Francis Xavier University has been associated with the recent “conference” in Tehran due to the presence of a member of University faculty. The gathering, in its origins and focus, contained elements that are deeply abhorrent to the St. Francis Xavier University community and the traditions of our 153 years of history…Members of University faculty, in Canada at least, have the freedom of inquiry and speech which is part of our democracy. They do not, however, speak for the University…This conference has rightly been condemned in no uncertain terms by our Prime Minister on behalf of all Canadians. The StFX community and I join in this condemnation.
The St. Francis Xavier Students’ Union Equity Policy defines harassment and discrimination as:
1.4.2 Remarks, including jokes or innuendos, that are based on, but not limited to, racism, sexism, social class, homophobia, or gender identity;
1.4.3 Social media posts, promotional materials, events, or performances that use stereotypes or discriminatory language based on any and all grounds protected under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act;
1.4.4 Offensive comments and/or actions which insult, humiliate or threaten an individual or group;
1.4.5 Printed and/or digital content that displays insults, humiliation or threats to an individual or group;
1.4.6 And, sexual harassment, including physical contact, remarks, jokes, innuendoes to or about a person’s body, attire, age, race, gender, sexuality, sexual orientation or perceived gender identity
The Union’s Poster Policy also uses ambiguous language to empower Union officers to censor any materials they consider offensive:
…Any publicity that is to be posted must be approved by the appropriate Union Executive.
No material that is slanderous, offensive, harassing, discriminatory, etc. will be permitted.
Failure to comply with this policy will result in the removal of the poster as well as possible disciplinary action by means of the Community Code.
The Society Handbook, published by the Union and written for society presidents, states that societies affiliated with political parties cannot receive funding:
What about political groups? No funding, ever, full stop. See, if your society is a political group such as the young Liberals/young Conservatives/ young NDP, then you’re not just a society, you’re also a branch of those political parties. The Union is supposed to be impartial to politics, and giving money to political parties breaks that impartiality. Furthermore, people go insane when it comes to politics. It destroys friendships, starts wars; people treat their party like a cult. Even if I was perfectly fair to one political group with regards to funding, rarely would even one of our political groups think so. But even then, can we really trust me? I have my own political beliefs which skew my ability to treat y’all fairly. For all those reasons, we will not be offering funding to political groups, so don’t ask!
The Society Handbook also states that to be ratified, a club must “Be inclusive to any student that wants to join” and must not “[h]ave a constitution which either explicitly or implicitly discriminates against people based various identities [sic] found within the Canadian Human Rights act.”
The Elections Act empowers the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) to establish the rules and procedures governing Union elections and approve campaign materials. The Elections Act also states “Candidates cannot however send out unsolicited electronic messages (i.e. mass Emails) to students asking for support, and no one may send them out on the candidate’s behalf.”
The St. Francis Xavier Students’ Union does not take official stances on issues outside of its mandate.
The authors are not aware of the StFX Students’ Union discriminating against a campus group or club based on its views or opinions.