|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
U of M’s Academic Freedom and Responsibilities policy states the following about academic freedom:
1.1 Academic Freedom:
The common good of society depends upon the search for truth and its free exposition. Academic freedom in the University in teaching, research and dissemination of knowledge is essential to these purposes. Persons engaged in teaching, research and dissemination of knowledge are, therefore, entitled to freedom in carrying out teaching and in discussing their subjects, and freedom from institutional censorship. Academic freedom carries with it the responsibility to use that freedom in a manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base research, teaching and the dissemination of knowledge in a search for truth.
The Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy (RWLE Policy) prohibits “discriminatory” or “harassing” speech. Section 2.4 of the RWLE Policy states that “[t]he University of Manitoba is committed to an inclusive and respectful work and learning environment free from human rights discrimination or harassment, sexual harassment and personal harassment." Section 2.1.2 of the RWLE Policy prohibits written or spoken insults such as name calling, slurs, graffiti, pictures, remarks or jokes that are considered discriminatory or harassing.
The RWLE Policy does recognize “a commitment to academic freedom and freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression among its members which may result in respectful disagreements regarding beliefs or principles.”
Equity Services is an office created to administer the RWLE Policy. Equity Services is described by senior administration as having the ability to “monitor” and “oversee” events and issues on campus. Such was the case in 2010 when the President’s report cited the role Equity Services played in monitoring controversial events such as Israel Apartheid Week.
U of M’s policy on Inappropriate or Disruptive Student Behaviour does not include protection against the disruption of extra-curricular events.
Room bookings are administered by Conference and Catering Services. A secret Standard Operating Procedure governs which groups may rent certain spaces, including the Fireplace Lounge, a high-traffic student lounge space on campus. The Operating Procedure indicates:
Throughout the academic year, only officially-recognized UMSU student groups will be allowed to rent table space or conduct presentations in the Fireplace Lounge. For table rentals, a maximum of three groups/tables will be allowed at one time.
Regarding vendor table rentals, one University of Manitoba official is quoted, “We reserve the right to disallow rentals by groups/individuals whose purpose or intent may be deemed:
Incompatible or disruptive to the University
Harmful to the University’s reputation
Offensive to community standards
Having a history or reputation of being disingenuous
Implied as endorsed or legitimized by the University
Unsafe, with potential for injury to persons or damage to property
Contrary to the law or University policy”
The University of Manitoba launched an investigation in March 2019 in response to one student’s Facebook posts.
Since the Justice Centre provided extensive behind the scenes advice to this student, including how to assert their rights in dealing with the University, the University’s investigation has not proceeded to disciplinary action. This case will continue to be monitored.
The non-profit organization Canadian Palestine Support Network made room bookings on behalf of the de-ratified but still active student group Students Against Israeli Apartheid for the week of March 17-21, 2014, to hold its annual Israeli Apartheid Week event. U of M Conference & Catering Services reserved the high-traffic Fireplace Lounge for three of the events, but later moved them last-minute to out-of-the-way spaces on campus. Conference & Catering cited an “operational procedure and best practice” which excludes third-party groups from renting the Fireside Lounge, however, no such policy is publicly available.
The University of Manitoba approved a Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display which was held September 23-25, 2013, on the Pedway at its Fort Garry campus. The display was hosted by the registered student group U of M Students for a Culture of Life (UMSCL). Shortly after the display was set up, a small pro-choice counter-demonstration was organized across from UMSCL’s fenced-in signs. The University’s Security Services watched over the two groups for the duration of their attendance. The University of Manitoba reported receiving more than twenty complaints over the display. However, it did not attempt to shut down the display.
The engineering students’ magazine, The Red Lion, published a satirical Valentine’s Day issue in February 2010 which was criticized as sexist. Equity Services reviewed the magazine to see if it violated the RWLE Policy, and requested a meeting with the magazine’s editorial staff. According to John Danakas, director of public affairs, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “the content of the publication in light of the University’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy [and] to have a discussion about what materials might be offensive and the impact that offensive materials can have on people and groups of people.” The Red Lion did not suffer any content-based restrictions as a result of controversy.
During various Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events, the University of Manitoba’s President has stated that the University provides security at all IAW events to ensure they run without incident. In a 2011 op-ed in the Winnipeg Free Press, University President David Barnard explained his position that the University will not ban IAW from taking place but noted that “University policies” such as the RWLE Policy are justifiable reasons to interfere with free expression.
In January 2009, the Muslim Students' Association (MSA) student group set up a display in the University Centre. The display featured several images. One of the images depicted an Israeli fighter plane targeting a baby stroller. Another featured a caricature of a hooked-nosed Hasidic Jew with a star of David, pointing a bazooka at the nose of an Arab carrying a slingshot; a third one showed an Israeli helicopter with a swastika on top, dropping a bomb on a baby bottle. On the same day, University staff were notified by students that some found the images offensive and that the images violated the University’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy. Staff then informed MSA volunteers that complaints had been received.
According to John Danakas, Director of Marketing and Communications at the U of M, the MSA chose to voluntarily remove the images after they heard that they offended some students. An article appearing in the National Post on March 2, 2009, however, states that the U of M “forced” the removal of the images.
In 1999, U of M professor Hymie Rubenstein distributed to Winnipeg School Board members a flyer that read “18 Myths spread by Gay and Lesbian activists.” Representatives of the student union took offense and asked the University administration to determine whether Rubenstein had violated the Manitoba Human Rights Code. The University President’s office responded by stating that Professor Rubenstein’s actions did not fall under U of M regulations because he was not conducting University business at the time. Later, the University’s Vice-President (Academic) took a stand upholding the rights to express one's views, stating: "This is a principle on which the University must not compromise . . .It is my responsibility as an officer of the University of Manitoba to ensure that this forum of free expression remains a hallmark of our society and University community."
The University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU) in its Bylaw Manual states in Bylaw #1030(1): “All Campaign Materials (unless exempted under 1030(2) or 1030(3)) must be approved by the CRO [Chief Returning Officer] before they may be used in a campaign.”” (.
According to Policy #2016, UMSU does not approve posters that are “discriminatory or derogatory towards any person based on the characteristics listed in section 9(2) of the Manitoba Human Rights Code” or that violate University policies (e.g., the RWLE Policy’s prohibition on discrimination and harassment). “Discrimination” and “harassment” have the same definition in this document as given in the RWLE Procedure document (see Section 1). In addition, rejected posters can be appealed to the UMSU Executive Committee, meaning that UMSU decides what counts as discriminatory or harassing.
The UMSU’s Policy #2009 protects students from “discrimination” and “harassment” on three grounds: violations of the Human Rights Code, sexual harassment and personal harrassment. Policy #2009 specifically “does not condone behaviour that is likely to undermine the dignity, self-esteem or productivity” of UMSU members.
Policy #2005 states:
UMSU shall attempt to work with event organizers of ‘high-risk’ UMSU-supported events … to improve patron, staff and public safety, but reserves the right to refuse to work on any event or with any event organizer that is taking unnecessary risks.
When the University of Manitoba Students for a Culture of Life (UMSCL) held a Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display in September of 2013 (see section 2 of this report), a UMSU councilor moved to revoke ratification for UMSCL after UMSU reported receiving more than 20 complaints about the display. The motion read:
WHEREAS comparisons to the holocaust, graphic and inappropriate messaging regarding abortion is taking place on campus. Creating [sic] an unsafe environment for students and is in direct opposition of Policy 2009.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT UManitoba Students for a Culture of Life be revoked of their student group status.
The motion was defeated. JCCF sent a five-page letter to UMSU explaining why UMSCL has a right to express their views freely on campus.
On April 11, 2013, UMSU Council passed a resolution to remove official student group status from Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), and to ban the club from UMSU spaces.
The resolution used Policy #2009 to justify the ban on the grounds that SAIA’s annual event, Israeli Apartheid Week, discriminates against “Zionists” which the resolution defines as a group of persons sharing “national characteristics”. Israeli Apartheid Week, which takes place at hundreds of campuses throughout North America, therefore discriminates against Zionists on the basis of their “national characteristics,” according to the resolution.
The resolution was introduced despite legal advice from UMSU’s lawyer which stated the move could leave UMSU “at a significant risk of committing a breach of [their] legal obligations.”
SAIA tried again to seek ratification in September of 2013, but was again denied.
In the case of Hymie Rubenstein in 1999 (see Section 2), representatives of the student union asked the University administration to determine whether Rubenstein had violated the Manitoba Human Rights Code. In an interview, Rubenstein said "This is what political correctness is all about -- trying to censor people. This is the sort of fascism you get in universities today."