|Student Union Policies
|Student Union Practices
The University of Regina’s (U of R) Vision Statement, Mission Statement, and Values do not reference free expression or academic freedom.
The University’s Respectful University policy states:
Harassment and discrimination are, fundamentally, a selective denial of the basic human right to be treated with dignity and respect. The University will not tolerate or condone harassment or discrimination, and will take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure employees or students are not subjected to harassment and discrimination and will take all reasonable steps to prevent this type of behaviour and to stop it if it occurs.
In order to constitute harassment, conduct, comment, display, action or gesture does not need to be directed at a specific individual. For example, display of any inappropriate material such as a poster or screen-saver, or inappropriate comments, i.e. racial, religious, sexist or homophobic slurs overheard by another employee may also constitute harassment.
Third parties invited to the University could engage or participate in the harassment of an employee and/or student. The University may have limited ability to investigate or control their conduct. However, the University shall take reasonably practicable action to stop or reduce the risk to its employee/students of being harassed by third parties.
The Respectful University policy protects the academic freedom of faculty:
This policy shall not be interpreted, administered, or applied to infringe the academic freedom for academic staff members. When academic staff members engage in teaching, research and dissemination of knowledge, they are, therefore, entitled to the freedom to carry out such activities without arbitrary interference. The frank discussion of ideas, the pursuit and publication of research and the study and teaching of material with controversial content may not constitute harassment.
In a webpage on Student Conduct, the U of R demonstrates a commitment to upholding academic freedom and free expression:
A primary responsibility of the University is to provide its students with the opportunity for inquiry and the freedom to discuss and express one’s views openly without fear of retaliation, or abuse of person or property. These attributes are the foundation of good citizenship.
U of R’s Publications Distribution Policy states “[t]his policy is not intended to censor people bringing publications on campus.”
Violations of the U of R’s Student Code of Conduct include:
disruption of instructional activities (being any conduct which makes it difficult to proceed with scheduled lectures, seminars, discussion group meetings and related activities, or with examinations, tests, or use of library, laboratory or research facilities);
assault of any nature, or the threat of any assault;
any conduct which harms or threatens to harm the proper functioning of university programs or activities, the rights of members or guests of the University, the safety or wellbeing of members or guests of the University, or the property of the University, its members and guests
The U of R promotes ideological advocacy through its funding of the Office of Indigenization, a body dedicated to university Indigenization.
Canadian poet George Elliott Clarke was to deliver the U of R’s Woodrow Lloyd Lecture on January 23rd, 2020. His talk was titled “‘Truth and Reconciliation’ versus ‘the Murdered and Missing’: Examining Indigenous Experiences of (In)Justice in Four Saskatchewan Poets.”
However, some faculty members and indigneous leaders were alerted to Clarke’s working relationship with Stephen Brown (aka Steven Kummerfield), one of the men convicted in the murder of indigenous woman Pamela George in 1995. Richard Kleer, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, released a statement claiming the Faculty stands by the invitation, and that the event would proceed. However, Clarke later withdrew from giving the presentation.
On April 14, 2014, at the U of R’s request, two individuals were arrested, hand-cuffed, and removed from campus for peacefully expressing highly unpopular views against homosexuality and refusing to leave. They were later charged with mischief. The men had signs with slogans like “sodomy is a sin”. In December of 2014, the two individuals were found not guilty of mischief and stated to the media that they would be returning to the University in the future. The University has not responded to the court ruling.
In June of 2011, controversy erupted in the context of a scheduled lecture series, “Profs in the Park,” organized by the U of R and the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District (RDBID) of the City of Regina. A lecture by Emily Eaton, a professor of human geography, was entitled “Solidarity with Palestine: The case for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.” RDBID insisted that professor Eaton change the topic of her lecture in order for the event to proceed on June 14.
The U of R chose to withdraw from the partnership and hold lectures on its own. The U of R regarded RDBID’s decision to cancel as censorship, and defended the right of professors and citizens to express unpopular views:
"We're not happy with (RDBID's) decision. It's not consistent with the traditions of universities across the country and we'd rather withdraw from the series than passively accept that decision," said Faculty of Arts Dean Richard Kleer.
Freedom of expression is not mentioned in the University of Regina Students’ Union’s (URSU) Objectives, Principles, or 2017-2020 Strategic Framework. Freedom of expression is also absent from URSU Constitution Article IV - Rights of Members.
URSU’s Constitution states that membership in the URSU can be revoked if a student “engages in any activity which undermines the integrity of the Students’ Union as decided by a two-thirds majority quorum vote of the Board of Directors.”
Section 3.1 of URSU’s Poster and Banner Policy states:
Ad Material which may be perceived as being discriminatory, offensive, denigrating, demeaning, or exploitative on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, age, race, class, religion, creed, ancestry, country of origin, ethnicity, or other grounds shall be deemed to be in violation of this policy and will not be permitted to be posted in or around URSU space(s), including URSU poster boards. Ad Material must also conform with the spirit of creating a positive space for students on campus.
Section 3(7) of URSU’s Election and Referendum Bylaw is the governing document for URSU elections. The Bylaw gives significant discretion to the Elections Committee to censor literature and other campaign materials:
The Elections Committee is comprised of the CRO, the PEO [Public Elections Officer] and the SEO [Student Elections Officer]. Specifically, the Elections Committee is responsible for; Disqualifying candidates, materials, representatives or members who, in the opinion of the Elections Committee, have broken the rules laid out in this bylaw and other relevant documents.
The URSU Policy on Campus Groups does not discriminate against clubs based on belief, opinion, or philosophy.
The student union takes positions on issues outside its mandate, including the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
In response to the controversy surrounding George Elliott Clarke’s lecture (as described above, in “University Practices”), URSU released a statement dismissive of free expression:
As the University of Regina Students’ Union, we represent the needs and interests of over 16,000 students on this campus, this includes thousands of Indigenous students, many of whom have been made to feel unsafe and unwelcome on our campus due to the University of Regina’s prioritization of “academic freedom” over Indigenization and the safety of Indigenous women. Amongst the students we represent are Indigenous students who have ties to Pamela George, Pamela’s family, and Pamela’s community. Our hearts are with these students, and all students, who have been re-traumatized throughout this past month, as they’ve had to watch as the public minimizes Pamela’s death as a topic of academic freedom vs. inclusion.
URSU strives to advocate for a safe and welcoming campus for all students to be able to receive a quality education. Until all students can be assured of a safe and inclusive campus life experience, we will continue to push our campus community leaders to do better.
In the 2018–19 financial year,* the University of Regina received $146,968,000 in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants. These taxpayer funds accounted for 47% of their annual revenue.
*The University of Regina did not make their 2019–20 financial statements available by the time of publication of the 2020 Campus Freedom Index.