|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
The mission statement of St. Thomas University (STU) contains the following commitment:
We strive to preserve the tradition of academic freedom. We seek to provide a learning and working atmosphere that is free of discrimination, injustice, and violence, and that is responsive, understanding, open, and fair.
STU’s Harassment & Discrimination Policy supports academic freedom and free expression:
Section 4.1.3 The University is committed to academic freedom and to freedom of expression and association. Neither this Policy in general, nor its definitions in particular, is to be applied in such a way as to detract from the right of students to engage in free inquiry and open discussion of potentially controversial matters.
STU’s “Prohibited Conduct” section in the Codes of Student Conduct forbids students from “obstruct[ing] another individual or group of individuals from carrying on their legitimate activities, or from speaking or associating with others.”
The authors are not aware of STU providing funding or resources to any group, department, committee, commission, or other body that engages in ideological advocacy.
In March 2009, a former Israeli political advisor named Dr. Josef Olmert came to STU to give a speech and take questions. Olmert was invited by the STU Political Science Society. The Vice-President Academic of STU gave a warning prior to the event that there could and would be disciplinary actions to those who would interrupt and obstruct the speaker in an inappropriate manner. STU’s pre-emptive action to ensure Olmert’s lecture could proceed without incident is testament to the school’s commitment to free speech.
Despite this warning, and in spite of campus security escorting several protesters out of the auditorium, reports of the event indicated that protesters were so unruly during the talk that they impaired the ability of the audience to hear the presentation.
The St. Thomas University Students’ Union (STUSU) does not mention free expression in any of the following: Constitution; Mission, Vision, and Values statements; 2020-2021 Priorities Document; or 2019-2021 Strategic Plan.
Part I, Section 6 of the of the STU Students’ Union’s (STUSU) General Policy prevents STUSU from interfering with its independent student press:
The Students’ Union support an autonomous and self-sustaining campus media, and shall not infringe upon the independence of The Aquinian, Inc., CHSR-FM, and any other recognized student campus media publication.
As per the Students’ Union of St. Thomas University By-laws, Chapter I — Elections and Referenda:
S.11. The Chief Returning Officer shall have the authority to remove any campaign materials they deem unacceptable.
STUSU divides clubs into two classifications:
There are two classifications of clubs and societies. Ratified and recognized clubs and societies. Ratified clubs and societies are clubs that are deemed fit to receive funding and promotional support from the Students’ Union while recognized clubs and societies are ones which the Students’ Union acknowledges their existence but they do not qualify to receive funding or promotional support from the Union. While all clubs are deemed to be independent from the Students’ Union and St. Thomas University. Ratified clubs are expected to follow the Students’ Union Clubs and Societies Policy. All clubs are encouraged to seek ratified status in order to benefit from funding, training and promotional opportunities from the Students’ Union. In addition, ratified status gives organizations a legitimate voice and presence on campus.
The Clubs and Societies Policy states clubs “must be open to all Members of the Students’ Union” and “shall not have any partisan affiliation or involve themselves with any political organizations.”
STUSU does not take official stances on issues outside its mandate.
In October of 2012, STUSU Vice President for Student Life, Nicole Pozer, resigned from her position on the STUSU executive team. Pozer cited feeling “undervalued” by her colleagues and decided to resign after receiving a letter from fellow STUSU executives asking her to resign
Meredith Gillis, then a reporter with the student newspaper The Aquinian, wrote coverage of the resignation in several articles where she alleged the resignation was a result of practical jokes laid on Pozer by her fellow STUSU executives over the course of her term. Both STUSU and Pozer denied this claim, and many representatives on the Student Representatives Council (SRC) and the STUSU executive accused Gillis of using inappropriate sources, and citing rumour as fact.
Then-STUSU president John Hoben, and the SRC, demanded an apology from The Aquinian for its reporting of STUSU events that year, including the Pozer controversy. Editor-in-Chief Liam McGuire refused to apologize, stating that Gillis was simply reporting the facts as she understood them. STUSU unsuccessfully tried to amend the language of STUSU’s media fee, which provides funding to The Aquinian, so that STUSU could give the fee to other media organizations if it so chooses. STUSU then ceased its demand for an apology.
In the 2018–19 financial year,* St. Thomas University received $14,366,000 in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants. These taxpayer funds accounted for 34.6% of their annual revenue.
*St. Thomas University did not make their 2019–20 financial statements available by the time of publication of the 2020 Campus Freedom Index.