|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
In the 2014-2022 Strategic Plan, under “Why We Exist,” the University of Lethbridge (U Lethbridge) states:
We create, discover, disseminate, and apply knowledge through free and critical inquiry and excellence in basic and applied research of regional and global impact.
We encourage and nurture creative expression.
In the 2014-2022 Strategic Plan, under “Our Fundamental Principles”, it reads:
We encourage and protect free inquiry and expression, and model collegial and civil debate, dissent, and controversy to critically explore and resolve issues.
U Lethbridge’s Statement on Free Expression came into effect in December 2019:
The University of Lethbridge mandate affirms its commitment to protect free inquiry and scholarship, facilitate access to scholarly resources, and support artistic expression and the free and open scholarly discussion of issues.
[...] the University of Lethbridge reaffirms its commitment, and recognizes its obligation, to provide an environment in which freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression are prerequisite requirements in all aspects of its operation; an environment in which mutual respect, tolerance, and civility are the hallmarks of all interactions. Freedom of speech is inextricably associated with freedom of expression and is afforded the same commitments with bounds determined by the requirements of Canadian Law. Freedom of expression does not protect violence or threats of violence and examples of how it is limited include Criminal Code hate speech laws, hate and discriminatory speech provisions within provincial human rights codes, and anti-defamation laws. Subject to the limits set by Canadian law, the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge commits to the following principles:
- The University of Lethbridge is committed to free and open critical inquiry in all matters. All
members of the University community are guaranteed the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.
- Members of the University community have the right to criticize and question views expressed on campus but they may not obstruct or interfere with others’ freedom of expression.
- Debate or deliberation on campus may not be suppressed because the ideas put forward are
thought by some, or even most, to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or misguided. It is for
individual members of the university community, not the University as an institution, to make
those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas they oppose.
- Mutual respect, tolerance, and civility are valued within the University but do not constitute sufficient justification for closing off the discussion of ideas or shielding students from ideas or opinions, no matter how offensive or disagreeable they may be to some members of the University community, or those outside of the University.
- The University will restrict expression that violates the law, defames an individual, that constitutes a threat or harassment or that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests.
To achieve its purpose and mandate the University must operate free from unreasonable interference. Therefore, the University reserves the right to reasonably regulate the use of facilities, time, place, and manner of expression to ensure it does not disrupt the ordinary activity of the University.
This commitment on Free Expression in no way modifies the University’s commitment to Academic Freedom and nothing in this commitment is intended to undermine or limit articles within collective agreements or other employment contracts entered into by the University of Lethbridge.
While all members of the University community have the right to free expression, this does not imply that the University endorses opinions and views expressed. The Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge affirms this commitment with the understanding that it applies to individuals or organizations making use of University of Lethbridge property or resources, including individuals and organizations external to the University.
The U Lethbridge Harassment and Discrimination Policy states:
The University will take the following into account when carrying out its responsibilities under this Policy: individuals’ experiences can be affected by factors such as their access to power and privilege, historically relevant considerations such as settler colonialism, their sex, sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, racialization, age, family status, religion, faith, ability, disability, national or ethnic origin, indigeneity, immigration status, socio-economic status, class, and language. The University also recognizes that a university is a unique environment, in which power imbalances are inherent. These factors impact individual experiences of Harassment and/or Discrimination and choices with regard to recourse.
Under the Policy, “discrimination” includes applying stereotypes or generalizations about a group of people.
The Policy is not to be interpreted in any way that could “infringe upon academic freedom...The frank discussion of controversial matters, and the study and teaching of material with controversial content do not constitute harassment or discrimination.”
U Lethbridge does not provide funding or resources to a diversity office or any similar body that engages in ideological advocacy.
Former UCP candidate Caylan Ford was to deliver a presentation at U Lethbridge on March 13th, 2020, titled “Free Inquiry in the Age of Outrage.”
Some called for the cancellation of Ford’s presentation, and the U Lethbridge student newspaper, The Meriolist, published an article that ended with a call to complain about the event:
So far, the lecture will continue as planned. However, those who wish to express their concern over the event can contact Dr. John von Heyking (email@example.com) of the political science department.
In response to the controversy, on March 11th ULethbridge Acting Provost Dr. Erasmus Okine published a statement, “Free and open critical inquiry a university hallmark”, reading:
While the University does not endorse the opinions and views expressed by invited speakers, including Ford’s, by its very nature, a university permits free and open critical inquiry in all matters. The University’s Statement on Free Expression elaborates on this commitment.
We understand that many students and colleagues may believe that Ford’s reported comments about diversity-related topics are antithetical to the culture of inclusion that we strive to nurture at the U of L. Indeed, they consider them to be controversial and offensive, and for some, the reported comments may even trigger feelings of trauma related to prior experiences. [...]
Mutual respect, tolerance, and civility are valued within the University but do not constitute sufficient justification for closing off the discussion of ideas, no matter how offensive or disagreeable they may be.
Ford’s presentation was ultimately cancelled, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, not because of university censorship.
On October 4, 2016, University of Lethbridge professor Anthony Hall was suspended without pay from his teaching position, which he had held for 26 years, after the University received a complaint regarding comments Hall had made on social media about a "Zionist" connection to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C, and the Holocaust. Following an internal review, the University's board of governors decided to proceed with a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission based on Hall’s statements, saying they could be considered “hateful, contemptuous and discriminatory.”
The University of Lethbridge imposed restrictions on the placement of a display by a pro-life student group due to complaints from students that they were offended by the graphic images on display. In October of 2013, after an authorized Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display was organized on campus by a registered pro-life club, Lethbridge Students for Life, the University’s President & Vice-Chancellor, Mike Mahon, stated that the University would thereafter "ensure that such activities are conducted in an appropriate space on campus, that people are given a choice as to whether they wish to see the displays and engage in the debate, and that such activities are not unsafe and do not disrupt the normal operations of the University of Lethbridge." During this same GAP display, protesters used signs to block the view of the images from passersby. Lethbridge Students for Life contacted campus security, who arrived to respond to the situation. However, the protests dissipated shortly after Students for Life contacted security. It is not known what actions the University took to identify and prosecute these protesters who were in violation of the University’s anti-disruption policies.
When Students for Life planned to set up the same GAP display in October of 2014, the University placed new and unique restrictions on the club, as follows:
Free expression is not referenced in the Vision & Mission statements or 2020-2025 Strategic Plan of the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union (ULSU).
ULSU Policy Statement XIV: Anti-Discrimination advocates for a “safe” and “comfortable” environment for all students.
ULSU Policy 14 - Club Policy states:
1.3. The General Assembly or Executive Council has the authority to ratify or deny ratification to any student club; and,
1.3.1. The ratification of a club that was deratified in the prior year will take into account the filed history of that club and rational for prior de-ratification [sic].
Section 3 of Policy 14 - Club Policy, “De-Ratification”, further reads:
3.1. Any club found to be in violation of Students’ Union Legislation will be brought forth to Clubs’ Council for deratification at the discretion of the VP Student Affairs.
3.2. A motion for deratification of a club will be carried if approved by a majority vote.
3.5 The VP Student Affairs will keep record of deratified clubs, and will make note should a club seek ratification in the following academic year.
ULSU Bylaw XII – Code of Conduct applies to employees and elected student representatives of the Union, and prohibits the “use of degrading or malicious statements or actions which in any way harms the membership, employee, or the integrity of the ULSU…”
The authors are not aware of any ULSU rules or regulations for elections and referenda that impose restrictions on campaign speech or literature.
ULSU does not take official positions outside its mandate.
The student union failed to condemn the actions of the University to fire one of its professors and file a Human Rights complaint against him in the 2017-2018 year.
In April of 2016, University of Lethbridge Students Union (ULSU) president, Brenna Scott, told a student to remove a Facebook posting he had written. Scott took issue with an acronym used in the student’s post celebrating the end of classes, which ended with “Let’s get crazy on Friday and FHRITP.” The acronym represents a sexuality explicit phrase. Scott warned the student ‘if you want to come to LCB [Last Class Bash], you need to be in my office at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday).” The student eventually removed the posting.
ULSU has defended the free expression rights of its pro-life group when this group has faced censorship by the University. Then-ULSU president Shuna Talbot stated to the media that:
“We support all of our clubs in their demonstrations as long as they follow the appropriate processes which include getting approval from Risk and Safety Services and Security Services”