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Freedom of speech, or Policy 33 bait? - University of Waterloo Community

About Freedom of speech, or Policy 33 bait?

Previous Entry Freedom of speech, or Policy 33 bait? Feb. 9th, 2011 @ 08:43 am Next Entry
Policy 33 states, in part:

"That no member of the University community (faculty, staff, student) unduly interfere with the study, work or working environment of other members of the University or any aspect of another's University activity. This shall be taken to apply to the campus of the University. . ."

and

"A 'poisoned environment' (or one that is intimidating, hostile or offensive) can be created based on any of the prohibited grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and can be described as comment or conduct that is contrary to the aims of maintaining a supportive, respectful and tolerant environment."

Yesterday, some friends of mine and I observed several posters through at least DC and MC sporting a picture of Marie Curie.

Next to Marie was a graphic of an atomic explosion, and text saying something along the lines of "A woman was responsible for the atomic bomb, would you want a woman to lead you?" Sorry, don't have the exact text, because I handed over my exemplar to my supervisor yesterday evening and I haven't seen one since.

The posters were anonymous.

What are the feelings of the community on such posters? Should they be allowed on campus? Yes/no/it depends? Is this hate speech (in the legal sense of the term), or merely offensive and stupid? If the latter, what are the implications for Policy 33, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and provincial and federal labour regulations? I know few (none?) of us are lawyers, but I thought I'd ask anyway.

I have asked this question more officially elsewhere, in case anybody's wondering. I'm just curious what folks here would think, given we have a pretty good cross-section of students, alumni, staff, and other associated folks.
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From:alexakarpov
Date:February 9th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
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merely offensive and stupid
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From:chezmax
Date:February 9th, 2011 02:17 pm (UTC)
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If nothing else, it's surely in bad taste. It's certainly also sexist, which is probably falling under Policy 33.
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From:catbear
Date:February 9th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
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If there's freedom to post [merely] offensive and stupid things, is there also freedom for people who don't like those things to take them down at-will? I honestly don't know what the guidelines are.
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From:kraig
Date:February 9th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
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That's a grey area, I suspect. University policy is officially silent on the matter - as it should be, I think, there needs to be room for discretion.

I took down the one I saw on an uncontrolled bulletin board, because it's in a staff area and there's no reason staff need to see that sort of thing in their workplace. In open areas, I'm not sure.

In the past I've removed posters not because they were offensive, but because they actually presented a potential danger.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 9th, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)

Approval Process

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Most buildings have an approval committee for posters like this. Policy 33 aside, these shouldn't have made it past that. If posters aren't marked with a stamp of approval, you should feel free to take them down.
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From:kraig
Date:February 9th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Approval Process

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Buildings? Committees? First I've heard of that.
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From:icedrake
Date:February 9th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)

Re: Approval Process

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Are you being serious or sarcastic?

My experience is now about five years out of date, but I highly doubt this is something that would have changed.

Most announcement boards in high-traffic areas are controlled by student societies. Areas primarily intended for staff and faculty are a different story, but I'm pretty sure a lot of those are controlled and monitored by departmental secretaries.

For the boards that *are* controlled by student societies, there is usually a pretty closely adhered-to approval process. Posters are either put up by, or at the very least approved and stamped by, the student society in question. Posters without stamps on them are removed in fairly short order.

All the poster boards in the SLC, for example, could only contain posters stamped by the Turnkey Desk (exceptions being boards inside/immediately adjacent to/on doors of offices of student services and clubs, which were controlled by those respective groups).
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From:kraig
Date:February 9th, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Approval Process

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Yes, I'm quite serious. As you say, individual boards may (or may not) be controlled by student societies, but there's no such thing - to my knowledge - as an MC Committee For Deciding Board Posting, or an SCH Committee For Same. I can tell you flat-out that non-society boards in MC are definitely _not_, generally, monitored by departmental secretaries.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 17th, 2011 04:48 am (UTC)

Re: Approval Process

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Yes - posters are technically only allowed in designated spaces on campus.
This is to eliminate a campus littered with flyers. You can take down any poster which is not in a designated spot. The one exception has been election posters because people tend to go rampant posting things anyway.

The only place where you can post without approval are the outdoor poster stands. In all other cases you must have approval from the respective faculty, building, etc. For example, posters in math buildings must be stamped by MathSoc, same with Environment, etc. Posters in the SLC need to be given to turnkey to be put up. Feds has a number of boards across campus which they control. Student Clubs must have posters approved by the Clubs Director, etc.
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From:kraig
Date:February 17th, 2011 02:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Approval Process

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"For example, posters in math buildings must be stamped by MathSoc"

Many boards have "Must be approved by MathSoc" on them. Many more do not. I don't believe MathSoc controls the ones which are not stamped, which is not to say that some other entity does not - it is only to say that I believe that not every board actually has a designated owner, or at least, not a recognized one.

If it IS the case that MathSoc police all boards in Math faculty type buildings (MC, most of DC) then I think they're in the situation of having an unenforceable law, given how many boards in MC have posters lacking their stamps.

I don't mean to seem overly pedantic on the matter, but being one of "them" I know how easy it is for blanket statements about what "they" do to turn into wild rumours, in a sort of twisted game of Telephone.
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From:lmdemasi
Date:February 10th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
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Clearly whoever posted these is trolling. Not only are they trolling, but they are doing it badly. Perhaps the appropriate response is to post other counter-trolling posters next to them. Examples:

Baltar sold out humanity to the Cylons. Would you want a man to lead you?
Hitler killed millions of Jews. Would you want a mean to lead you?
Oppenheimer built the bomb. Would you want a man to lead you?
Men are unable to bear children. Would you want a man to lead you?

Or even just replace all the instances of "woman" with "person."

As to the policy 33 issue, I think this pretty clearly violates that. Discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited, so this poster would be considered poisoning a work environment. As to whether I think this kind of thing _should_ be allowed, I don't really have time to fully get into right now.

I wonder if these would be considered acceptable if they were part of an historical exhibit in the anthropology department.
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From:madetoimpress
Date:February 15th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC)
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LIKE
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From:kraig
Date:February 17th, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
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"I wonder if these would be considered acceptable if they were part of an historical exhibit in the anthropology department."

Presumably deciding that would be up to an ethics board, but I'd think so, yes. Possibly somebody would ask for a "trigger" warning signage.
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