|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
The University of Victoria’s (UVic) Strategic Framework includes “Freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech” as core values.
Under UVic’s Booking of University Space policy section 18.00, short-term bookings must be in accordance with:
(a) federal and provincial legislation (including the BC Human Rights Code), municipal bylaws, and university policies and procedures;
(b) the university’s normal operations;
(c) the protection of the safety and security of people and spaces; and
(d) maintaining the integrity of the university’s property.
Section 24 of the Booking of University Space policy allows UVic to refuse a room booking request for any reason:
The university may decline an application or cancel any booking of a University Space including but not limited to where:
(a) the use or activity contravenes section 18.00 of this policy;
(b) the use or activity is inconsistent with the designated specific purpose of the space;
(c) the User:
iii. has previously not complied with a university policy or an agreement with the university;
vii. does not comply with any additional conditions or restrictions set out by the university;
viii. intends to offer an activity or program that conflicts or is in competition with existing programs of instruction offered at the university; or
(d) the university does not have the required resources to appropriately accommodate the booking request; or
(e) unforeseen circumstances occur where the space must be repaired, or where the university must use the space for an alternate purpose, or where the university cannot accommodate the request.
UVic’s Student Non-Academic Misconduct Policy prohibits students from engaging in “theft, damage or destruction of property” as well as “disruptive or dangerous behaviours to self or others.”
The Discrimination and Harassment Policy provides the following protection to academic freedom:
The university recognizes academic freedom as a fundamental value, and this policy shall not be interpreted or applied to impose on the legitimate academic freedom of any Member of the University Community…In exercising academic freedom, Members of the University Community must act in a responsible and reasonable manner and respect the rights of other Members of the University Community.
As per section 3.03 of the Discrimination and Harassment Policy, personal harassment is described as “behaviour directed towards members of the University Community that would be characterized by a reasonable person as:”
Personal Harassment is not:
UVic’s Equity and Human Rights department “is a resource for all UVic community members, providing education, information, assistance and advice in aid of building and supporting an inclusive campus. We believe that our campus should represent the diversity of our larger communities and that every person--student staff and faculty--should be treated equitably. To this end we work closely across all units to build equity and diversity through education, prevention and structural initiatives. Finally, when issues and concerns arise, we are here to assist community members and help guide them through the range of available resolution options.”
Conservative activist Aaron Gunn was set to give a speech titled “A Perspective on the Wet’suwet’en Protests” at the University of Victoria on March 12, 2020 for the campus Free Speech Club. Several days prior to March 12, representatives of the Free Speech Club were informed by the University that their event was likely to attract protests, and that the Free Speech Club would be required to pay for security for the event to proceed, potentially several thousand dollars. The club ultimately cancelled their event in light of this information, and the University stated that if the club would like to re-book the event, they must firstly become a ratified student club and secondly attend a security meeting with university officials.
Zoologist Dr. Susan Crockford, an accomplished scholar who specializes in animal bone identification and polar bears, has argued against contemporary climate change wisdom by stating that polar bears are not threatened with extinction, and that their populations are in fact thriving. Crockford had been an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria for 15 years before she was advised in May 2019 that her time as an adjunct professor had ended, as an internal committee had voted against the renewal of her status. No reasons were provided, leading Crockford to conclude her contract was terminated “in order to suppress views on polar bears and related climate change issues.”
There was an earlier sign that the university was uncomfortable with Crockford’s research. She had been part of the UVic Speakers Bureau for several years, delivering lectures to schools and community groups. One of her presentations was about the origins of domestic dogs, and the other was titled “Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change.” But in 2017, she was banned from the Speakers Bureau for not confirming she could properly “represent the university.” Crockford told the Financial Post the revocation of her position was “an academic hanging without a trial, conducted behind closed doors.”
On November 16, 2017, the campus student group Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) erected a display in UVic’s “Quad”, consisting of 10,000 small blue and pink flags planted into the ground (the “Flag Display”). The flags represent the 100,000 abortions that take place in Canada on a yearly basis. The purpose of the display was to raise awareness of the fact that Canada has no law regulating abortion. YPY was approved to erect the Flag Display at approximately 6:30AM, with the event scheduled to begin at 8:00AM, and dismantle the Flag Display at approximately 2:30PM, with the event scheduled to conclude at 3:00PM.
The Flag Display booking request was submitted by YPY November 2. Shortly after receiving the space booking confirmation from UVic on November 15, YPY emailed Campus Security to notify them of the event. At about noon, UVic students began to gather near the Flag Display to protest the Flag Display. Some of the protesters became verbally aggressive and told YPY members that they would remove the flags themselves if YPY refused to do so. Many protesters then began pulling up the flags and putting them in piles.
As the protesters began to destroy the Flag Display, YPY called Campus Security. YPY asked Campus Security to intervene to prevent their property from being vandalized, but the two officers simply stood and watched the protesters destroy YPY’s Flag Display. When YPY asked the officers why they were not protecting the Flag Display from vandalism, the officers responded that they must remain “neutral” and that they could not take action to protect the Flag Display because it could be interpreted as Campus Security taking a position in support of YPY. The officers further explained that intervention could “escalate” the situation.
By mid-afternoon the Flag Display was completely destroyed by the protesters.
John Derry, associate director of UVic’s Office of Student Life, Division of Student Affairs, made a statement apologizing for the miscommunication
“[The Office of Student Life is] aware of the potential impact when groups like this hold events on campus, and we provided notification to many units across campus but, in this case, did not notify the UVSS in a timely way as we have in the past. This has been corrected and will not happen again.”
The University approved a permit for the same event to take place in the winter 2018 semester. This second rendition of the event took place without interruption in the Quad on February 22, 2018.
In March of 2017, the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS) and a student group called “Third Party” sponsored an educational event designed to generate discussion about white supremacy by placing a large whiteboard on campus and asking students to answer the question “How do you challenge white supremacy?” by writing on the board. Complaints were raised by a number of students about some of the phrases on the wall, including the phrase “Whitie Get Out”. The University of Victoria resisted calls to shut down the display and the event proceeded without interruption.
In the spring term of the 2012-13 school year, UVic cancelled an event planned by the campus pro-life group Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), an event which UVic had previously approved. UVic then disciplined YPY for proceeding with its event as planned and approved, which resulted in a court action against UVic by Cam Cote, then president of YPY.
In January of 2013, YPY submitted another formal booking request to the UVic administration, to conduct the same “Choice” Chain peaceful demonstration with signs and literature distribution on February 1, 2013. The request was submitted at least ten business days prior to the event. YPY club leaders met with U-Vic officials, did a full walk around of the approved location, and discussed various issues. UVic approved the event to go ahead on February 1, 2013, and YPY planned accordingly.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. on January 31, 2013, the day before this approved event was scheduled to take place, Jim Dunsdon, Vice-President of UVic Student Affairs and one of the representatives that YPY had met with in the planning of the event, phoned the president of YPY and informed him that their peaceful demonstration could not proceed because the UVSS had informed him that YPY, as a UVSS club, had been banned from hosting “Choice” Chain on campus. But UVSS’s purported “ban” (see fourth section of this report) had already expired.
Nevertheless, Mr. Dunsdon insisted that YPY’s approved event could not proceed unless the UVSS’s now-expired ban was “reversed”.
On February 1, 2013, eight members of YPY proceeded to do "Choice" Chain at the campus location approved by UVic, and conducted the event exactly as it had been planned and discussed.
On March 1st, 2013, the YPY club president received a letter from the UVic administration stating that because YPY had held an unapproved public event, UVic was taking away YPY's public booking privileges for one year.
These events culminated in YPY launching a court action against the University. The BC Court of Appeal heard oral argument on February 4 and 5, 2016, and rendered its decision on April 18, 2016. The Court of Appeal dismissed the students’ argument that the Charter applies to public universities, ruling that public, taxpayer-funded universities are not government entities.
Upholding students’ freedom of expression is not referenced in the Mission, Vision, or Values of the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS).
The UVSS Issues Policy sets out positions that the UVSS takes on public policy issues. For example, the UVSS opposes “the implementation of any new abortion law.”
According to the UVSS Clubs Policy 5.1 (d), clubs must remain in good standing with the University of Victoria’s Equity and Human Rights Office to maintain club status.
Section 10.2 of the Electoral Policy states that senior electoral officers will be in charge of “Approving and regulating all campaign materials, including print, electronic, and other forms.”
In the 2019-2020 academic year, the UVSS did not speak publicly in support of the free expression rights of either Aaron Gunn or Susan Crockford (see “University Practices”).
Following the vandalism of a pro-life flag display on the Quad in November 2017, the UVSS issued a statement on Facebook which read:
As a lot of you are aware yesterday morning YPY (Youth Protecting Youth) put up thousands of flags in the Quad in protest of an individual’s right to choose. We at the UVSS stand together with the majority of students in saying that we fundamentally disagree with YPY on this issue. We wholeheartedly support the reproductive freedom of folks in making their own decisions surrounding abortions.
Furthermore, we are incredibly displeased with the way that the University has handled the issue. Due to the fact that we are held legally liable for the actions of clubs which has previously caused issues with certain clubs, the University has a policy where they give notice when a club has booked one of their spaces. However in the negotiations to do this demonstration, the University administration did not inform us in any capacity of this until Wednesday at 3pm. This prohibited us from making arrangements with the folks at the Anti-Violence Project to prepare for the fact that some might find this event to be triggering.
We hope that in the future the University is clear and forthcoming to students about what’s happening on campus, especially with something that can so profoundly affect students in a negative way. Furthermore, we hope to work with the University to ensure that the proper supports are made available when controversial displays are placed on university grounds. If anyone found this particular display to be triggering, we urge you to access the supports made available to you on campus. This includes both the Anti-Violence Project and Counselling Services.
On October 7, 2015, the Undergraduate Political Science course union, a registered group with the UVSS, received approval for a grant from the Course Union Council, an administrative body of the UVSS. The Course Union had applied for a grant from the UVSS to assist with costs related to hosting the annual conference of the National Political Science Students Association. The topic of the conference, running January 27-31, 2016, was “Modern Discourses on Sovereignty: Land, Bodies, and Borders”.
On November 2, 2015, at the meeting of the UVSS Board of Directors where the Course Union Council’s grant was to be voted upon, a representative of the Native Student Union, a registered student group on campus, took issue with the conference title and “could not condone funding a conference on sovereignty when nobody involved in the planning reached out to indigenous groups on campus for their consent.” The UVSS Board voted unanimously to reject funding for the conference.
In December 2012, the UVSS Board passed a motion finding that the Catholic Students' Association (CSA), a UVSS club, had violated the UVSS Clubs Policy by distributing three leaflets during Clubs Days, entitled “Pure Manhood,” “Pure Womanhood” and “Pure Love.” The ruling came after complaints about the pamphlet were submitted to Megan Quigley, the UVSS Director of Student Affairs. The complaints were discussed by the UVSS Complaints Committee in camera, but the motion implies that the club’s leaflets were considered “harassment” by UVSS. UVSS mandated that the CSA write a formal apology to the student population for distributing the leaflets, and has also requested that the CSA “engage in a conversation facilitated by an external party regarding oppressive language, systemic violence and consent,” to which club members did not comply. CSA members planned to appeal the decision at an October 17, 2013, Annual General Meeting of the UVSS, but the meeting failed to reach quorum. Further attempts were made by UVSS to hold a meeting to discuss the appeal, but quorum was not reached on either occasion.
Following the UVSS Board of Directors elections in 2014, the new Board voted to rescind the December 2012 motion against the CSA.
In the 2018–19 financial year,* the University of Victoria received $285,317,000 in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants. These taxpayer funds accounted for 48.1% of their annual revenue.
*The University of Victoria did not make their 2019–20 financial statements available by the time of publication of the 2020 Campus Freedom Index.