|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
Fulfilling its obligations to the Ontario government, in November 2018, the University of Windsor passed a Statement on Freedom of Expression which states:
Freedom of expression, though, is subject to limits. Canadian law includes restrictions on obscenity, hate speech, threats, defamation, and harassment. The law also regulates the time or location at which expression may occur, in order to coordinate expression with other activities in public spaces.
Students, faculty members, staff, and guests have the right to express themselves in the common or open spaces of the university. This right is subject only to those limits that are necessary to protect the operation of the university and to prevent harm to the university’s members and guests. Students, staff, faculty members, and guests should be protected from unlawful hate speech and harassment, such as racist or sexual comments. However, no member of the academic community has a right to be protected from the expression of ideas they dislike or regard as wrong or offensive. The individual’s expression may be zealous, impassioned, and even uncivil. The university may restrict or limit such expression only when it disrupts the central activities of the institution; when, for example, the expression is so loud that it interferes with teaching activities.
Extra-curricular events, including visiting speakers, are an important part of the university’s academic life. Such events should be restricted only when they are likely to involve unlawful speech. At the same time, freedom of expression protects the right of others in the university to protest such an event. The right to protest is protected provided the protestors do not seek to disrupt academic or other activities on campus.
The free exchanges of ideas and information is central to the university’s role as a place of learning and research. The university must permit and protect the free expression of its community members, subject only to limits necessary to protect the operation of the institution or to prevent harm to members of the university. The university must resist any attempt to interfere with the freedom of expression of its members and guests. The university has in place procedures for addressing interferences with the rights of the community’s members and guests to express themselves.
Section 1 of the University of Windsor’s Student Code of Conduct states that the University:
…is a place where freedom of expression is protected vigorously and uncompromisingly and where civility of expression in word and deed is the code of conduct.
The Code prohibits “Intentional obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary proceedings, or other University activities, including public service functions, and other authorized activities on University premises.”
The University of Windsor Office of Human Rights, Equity & Accessibility deals primarily with issues of human rights inquiries and complaints and ombuds functions related to human rights, equity and accessibility; as opposed to ideological advocacy.
On October 21, 2015, the campus group University of Windsor Jewish Student Association held a lecture on campus by Ishmael Khaldi, an Israeli diplomat, to discuss his perspective growing up as a Bedouin minority in Israel. The lecture was disrupted by protesters, mostly members of the student group “Palestinian Solidarity Group”. The protesters shouted and interrupted Khaldi’s talk, and then walked out, allowing the event to proceed. The University’s Campus Police were not present at the event, and the university took no actions to prosecute the disrupters, some of whom were recorded on video.
In October of 2015, the pro-life student group Life Choice held a chalking event on campus, as part of a coordinated effort by pro-life student groups across the country to raise awareness about abortion issues. The event involved writing pro-life messages and statistics on sidewalks and concrete grounds throughout campus—a tactic used frequently by other student groups at the University of Windsor, and which is not expressly prohibited by any University policy. Prior to this event taking place, club member Maggie McAuley had asked a student councillor with the University of Windsor Students Association (UWSA) whether she needed to have her event approved by the university or the UWSA. This councillor incorrectly stated that Ms. McAuley did not require approval.
On the day of the chalking event, called Chalktober, Maggie’s mother received a phone call from Campus Police requesting to know the whereabouts of Maggie. The Campus Police further stated that Maggie’s actions involving the chalking event were “illegal,” and that the Campus Police would take Maggie out of her class if her mother did not disclose her whereabouts.
The Campus Police then phoned Maggie and told her that she had engaged in “public mischief and trespassing” through her chalking event. Maggie then contacted the Dean of Students, Dr. Clayton Smith, who told her that chalking was equivalent to graffiti and therefore not permitted, despite the university having frequently permitted or condoned other chalking events each year. The chalking event was halted, and the university proceeded to wash off the chalk so that passersby wouldn’t see these pro-life messages.
After the Chalktober event, LifeChoice planned another event on campus for October 21, 2015, this time involving the display of thousands of blue and pink flags meant to raise awareness about the number of abortions in Canada each year, and Canada’s current abortion laws. Ms. McAuley received permission to hold the event in the outdoor residence quad area from Dean Smith on October 20, 2015, after Ms. McAuley had requested a higher traffic space and was denied. Dean Smith also told Ms. McAuley to surround the display with caution tape, a request he later rescinded.
During the protest, the Dean of Students and the UWSA president approached Ms. McAuley at the residence quad. Dean Smith told her that he was rescinding his permission to hold the event, and that she would be able to re-book for a later date and different location. Neither Dean Smith nor Campus Police took any action to stop the protesters who were vandalizing Ms. McAuley’s authorized display, nor to prosecute the students under its own policies.
Responding to a referendum passed by the University of Windsor Students' Alliance (UWSA) in support of an anti-Israel boycott (see “Student Union Practices”), in March of 2014, University of Windsor president Alan Wilderman launched an investigation into alleged violations of UWSA's constitution and by-laws. Wilderman told media that he was concerned about students who felt unsafe and may not return to the University because of the referendum. In April of 2014, Wilderman temporarily suspended funding of UWSA until he was sure there was a “properly governed organization” in place. Notably, Wilderman did not reference free expression in his remarks.
The investigation found “the petition to hold the referendum did not meet the standard of 500 valid signatures; changes to the structure of the UWSA executive violated its bylaws; some members of the executive and council have not met the constitutional criteria for membership; the motion approving the referendum lacked quorum; the referendum question was unclear and ambiguous.” Wilderman sent a letter to UWSA informing them that the referendum had thus failed.
In April of 2008, the University of Windsor’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) organized a film screening and lecture intended to shed light on the “crisis in Palestine” and the Israel-Palestine conflict. The event was cancelled (by the MSA) after a university administrator, the international students advisor, informed the MSA president that the event had the potential to incite anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bigotry.
The film, titled “Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority,” depicts Palestinians recounting abuse by Israeli soldiers. Osama Iqbal, then-president of the MSA, decided to cancel the event because the group’s intention was not to incite hatred but rather, to increase awareness about the humanitarian situation in Palestine.
It is not clear whether the University of Windor’s international students advisor said that the event ought to be cancelled, or that the event must be cancelled.
Free expression is not referenced in any foundational document of the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance (UWSA).
The UWSA funds “Equity Collectives” which it describes as follows:
An Equity Collective is a platform by which marginalized students can share common concerns and propose initiatives that can combat oppression, as well as educate the University community and improve the student experience for marginalized communities. This is a safer space empowered by the Board of Directors to serve as a grass-roots think tank and decision-making body.
For a Student Group to be ratified with the UWSA, they must follow the Ratification Procedures of the UWSA Student Group Handbook:
A group may be recognized by the UWSA if it:
“Failure to comply with the language or the spirit of the Student Group policy in any way” will result in de-ratification.
The UWSA Elections Policy, 70.01(3)a, states candidates must not breach “generally accepted community standards.”
The UWSA does not take official stances outside their mandate.
In February of 2016, UWSA executives scheduled a vote for their next council meeting to de-ratify the student pro-life club, LifeChoice, and to classify it as a “hate group”.
Contrary to de-ratification protocols, the UWSA did not formally inform LifeChoice of its intention to vote on their club status. Instead, a member of the executive approached club member Margaret McAuley in a cafeteria on campus the day before the vote was scheduled to take place, letting her know of their intentions.
Ms. McAuley attended the meeting prepared to defend her club’s right to operate on campus. A member of the UWSA executive then moved to defer the vote to another meeting. The vote has never been rescheduled.
The student group LifeChoice planned an event on campus for October 21, 2015, involving the display of thousands of blue and pink flags meant to raise awareness about the number of abortions in Canada each year, and Canada’s current abortion laws. Club member Margaret McAuley received permission to hold the event in the outdoor residence quad area from Dean Smith on October 20, 2015.
On the morning of October 21, the UWSA vice president for student advocacy, Matt Dunlop, approached Ms. McAuley at the residence quad and told her she needed approval from grounds administrators before her event could continue. Ms McAuley informed Mr. Dunlop she had received permission to hold the event from the Dean of Students, and Mr. Dunlop left. Mr. Dunlop then made a posting to Facebook instructing friends to “get ready to protest,” and then returned to the residence quad with a group of protesting students, including members of the UWSA executive, council and residence council. The students protesting proceeded to kick the flags in an effort to knock them out of their positions in the ground.
During the protest, the Dean of Students and the UWSA president Jaydee Tarpeh approached Ms. McAuley at the residence quad. Dean Smith told her that he was rescinding his permission to hold the event, and that she would be able to re-book for a later date and different location. Dean Smith nor Campus Police took no actions to stop the protesters who were vandalizing Ms. McAuley’s display, nor to prosecute the students under its own policies.
According to reports of the incident, “key members” of the UWSA were involved in the intervention that resulted in the display being removed. In response to the controversy, UWSA president Jaydee Tarpeh made comments to the student paper, the Lance, in support of the Dean of Student’s request for the display to be removed:
“It’s such a touchy issue,” Tarpeh said. “It’s going to be finding a space where she can enforce her opinion as well as when other people pass by, they can avoid the space if they want to and it doesn’t emotionally hurt certain people.”
In the 2018–19 financial year,* the University of Windsor received $134,954,000 in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants. These taxpayer funds accounted for 35.3% of their annual revenue.
*The University of Windsor did not make their 2019–20 financial statements available by the time of publication of the 2020 Campus Freedom Index.