|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
Freedom of expression and academic freedom are not referenced in the Mission, Vision and Values statements of Ontario Tech University (formerly University of the Ontario Institute of Technology).
To meet its obligations to the Ontario government, in 2018, Ontario Tech enacted a new Freedom of Expression Policy which states:
7.1 The Freedom of Expression described in Paragraph 5 is restricted in that it may not:
Section 8, Limits on the Protest and Challenge of Freedom of Expression, states:
University Members, authorized visitors, and guests are free to criticize and contest any view expressed in University Space or the Online University Environment, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views in University Space or the Online University Environment, but they may not unduly obstruct or otherwise significantly interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even find abhorrent.
Section 9, Responsibilities of Student Associations and recognized Student Organizations, states:
Student associations recognized under the Student Associations Accountability Policy are encouraged to adopt a policy that aligns with this Policy.
All recognized student organizations are expected to act in compliance with this Policy, as stated in the Policy on Recognition of Student Organizations.
Ontario Tech’s Harassment and Discrimination Policy defines “Discrimination” as:
The negative valuing, stereotyping, or discriminatory treatment of individuals and/or groups as defined by the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Discrimination directed at any individual or group is unacceptable. Discrimination can be detected by its effects, and can be manifested in both personal attacks and insults, and in the structure of social institutions. It may be intentional or unintentional, the result of activity or arrangements that set out to discriminate or harm, or of ignorance or inadvertence. Discrimination may include, but is not limited to, behaviour such as the dissemination of hate literature, graffiti, racial slurs and jokes, derogatory remarks and gestures, and physical attacks; bias in administrative decisions, employment and workplace practices, tenure, promotion, appointment, leave, and salary increases; bias in academic decisions such as marks, in the choice of scheduling of academic activities, and decisions related to the content of courses and course materials; behaviour which could reasonably be interpreted as offensive and patronizing, and as undermining self respect or adversely affecting performance or working conditions; discrimination in the provision of goods and services or access to premises, accommodation, and other facilities.
The Harassment and Discrimination Policy defines “Negative Environment” as:
One or a series of, offensive, hostile, or intimidating comment(s) or conduct violating provisions in the Ontario Human Rights Code that creates a "poisoned" environment for individuals or groups. A complainant does not have to be a direct target to be adversely affected by a negative environment. Examples include, but are not limited to, exposure to graffiti, signs, or cartoons, remarks, exclusion, or adverse treatment related to one or more of the provisions in the Code.
Section 5.3 of the Policy on the Recognition of Student Organizations states that:
The University is respectful of the autonomy of student organizations and will not attempt to censor, control or interfere with any Recognized Student Organization on the basis of its philosophy, beliefs, interests or opinions expressed unless and until these lead to activities which are illegal, discriminatory, infringe the rights and freedoms of others within the University community, or are in violation of the University’s policies and procedures.
Ontario Tech does not engage in ideological advocacy through any on-campus diversity office or similar body.
The authors are not aware of cases of Ontario Tech limiting or restricting campus free speech rights, or discriminating against students or clubs on the basis of their opinion. However, the University did not speak out against the actions of its Student Association when it refused to grant club recognition to a campus pro-life club in the 2015-2016 year.
The OTSU Clubs Policy says:
3.4 Under the terms of this policy, Student Union will not attempt to censor, control, or interfere with any existing Club on the basis of its philosophy, beliefs, interests or opinions expressed unless and until these lead to activities which are illegal, violate the Student Union Clubs Policy, Student Union Bylaws or core values, Ontario Tech University policies and procedures, or infringe upon the rights and freedoms of others. The status of recognized Club is a privilege, not a right.
3.5 Recognition as a Club by the Student Union does not imply endorsement or a Club’s beliefs or philosophy. It only assumes that the Student Union has a responsibility to approve a Club status, and to deny or withdraw recognition if the requirements of the policy or procedure are not observed.
OTSU’s General Bylaws do not restrict campaign speech during elections and referenda.
The authors are not aware of OTSU taking official stances on issues outside its mandate.
The Student Association of Durham College and UOIT (“Student Association”), which until the 2018-2019 academic year was the official student association of Ontario Tech students, refused to grant club recognition to a campus pro-life group because of its stance on abortion. The Student Association claimed that allowing a pro-life club on campus would constitute “systemic societal oppression”, and would violate “human rights”. The Student Association further claims that only clubs which support abortion are “equity-seeking” and therefore allowed on campus.
The pro-life group Speak for the Weak’s application for club status was denied in September 2015. The students spent most of the fall semester unsuccessfully attempting to appeal the decision to the Student Association’s Board of Directors. Without club status, student groups cannot gain access to Student Association space and resources, making it very difficult to conduct activities and engage with the student body.
Speak for the Weak launched a court application to reverse this decision. In its court application, Speak for the Weak argued that the Student Association violates its own policies and rules, fails to follow the principles of natural justice, bases its decision on irrelevant considerations, and fails to respect students’ freedoms of expression and association. In January 2018, this court application was dismissed.