|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
Free expression and academic freedom are not referenced in the Mission, Vision and Values statements of the University of the Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), also referred to as Ontario Tech University.
To meet its obligations to the Ontario government, in 2018, UOIT enacted a new Freedom of Expression Policy which states:
“Freedom of Expression” means the free expression of ideas and perspectives through a variety of media, including text, performance, images, or the spoken word (free speech), either virtually or physically, by individuals or groups.
“functioning of the University” means carrying out University academic, research, and administrative activities.
“Inclusive Freedom” means a commitment to the robust protection of free expression, including the expression of those who could be marginalized, silenced, or excluded from full participation.
The University endeavours to provide a safe environment, conducive to personal and intellectual growth, not only free of discrimination, injustice and actual or threatened violence, but also characterized by understanding, respect, peace, tolerance, trust, openness and fairness. The University is fully committed to promoting and advocating academic freedom and Freedom of Expression. At the same time, it has a responsibility to ensure that all members of its community can reasonably expect to pursue their work and studies in a safe and civil environment.
The University is committed to free and open inquiry into all matters and, therefore, guarantees all of its community members the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, challenge, and learn in an environment of Inclusive Freedom. This policy articulates that commitment, as well as the limits on Freedom of Expression and the constraints on protesting or challenging the Freedom of Expression of other community members.
Assertion of Freedom of Expression
Limits on Freedom of Expression
Limits on the Protest and Challenge of Freedom of Expression
Responsibilities of Student Associations and recognized Student Organizations
UOIT’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 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.
The Technology Use Policy states:
All members of the UOIT community, including employees, students, alumni and authorized guests, may be granted access to technology resources for use in their academic‐ and administrative‐related activities. Users are expected to respect the university’s good name in all electronic dealings with those outside the university and are responsible for familiarizing themselves and abiding by the university policies and regulations regarding the appropriate use of its technology resources. This includes, but is not limited to:
Consequences for violating the Technology Use Policy include suspension, expulsion or termination from the university.
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 UOIT policies and procedures.
UOIT’s Student Conduct Policy states:
UOIT, as part of the broader community of scholars, is devoted to generating and appreciating ideas, building on and perpetuating knowledge, and seeking out and addressing the great questions of yesterday, today and tomorrow. The words and actions of all members of the UOIT community must therefore support and promote these broader scholarly goals, advance good citizenship and contribute to an environment conducive to the personal and intellectual growth of all who study, work and live within it.
UOIT strives to provide a safe environment free of discrimination, injustice and violence by instilling in its members the values of civility, responsibility and respect. As such the university depends on all members to promptly report on any activity or behaviour that may threaten or endanger the safety and security of the community and its members.
Students at UOIT enjoy many rights and privileges and also share the responsibilities associated with being members of the university community. Students have the freedom to pursue their intellectual and personal interests provided that their actions do not limit or infringe on the rights of other members of the university or the community in which it is situated.
Students have a responsibility to familiarize themselves with the university regulations and the conduct that is expected of them while studying at UOIT, which includes but is not limited to…
The authors are not aware of cases of UOIT 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 Ontario Tech Student Union does not make its policies regulating club procedures, student behaviour, issues advocacy, elections and events available to the public.
The Student Association of Durham College and UOIT (“Student Association”), which until the 2018-2019 academic year was the official student association of UOIT 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.