Say new rules would violate their freedom to expression
Despite being in the middle of writing exams, University of Ottawa students have mobilized against a proposed Student Code of Non-Academic Conduct. Over 500 students marched on campus Friday to oppose the code.
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The code, drafted by the office of the University Secretary, was circulated to senior administrators, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), and the Graduate Students’ Association earlier this month, seeking feedback. The contents of the code sparked an almost immediate response from students as the SFUO started a petition that now has over 1500 signatures from students. Online petitions have also started and a Facebook group has been set up, all opposing the code.
The two student associations are particularly concerned that the code could be used to stifle dissenting views about the university administration by restricting free expression, peaceful assembly and mobilization. Section 17b of the proposed code names it an offense to “knowingly create a condition” that, among other things, “threatens the damage or destruction of property, or the reputation of the university.”
Philippe Marchand of the GSA says that the section is “very vague,” adding that threatening the reputation of the university is legitimate under certain conditions. “What if the university does something unjust?” he asked.
The code, which applies only to conduct that occurs on campus, also contains provisions against activities that “… disrupt, obstruct or adversely affect any activity organized by the university, or any of its faculties, schools or departments.”
Violation of the code comes with sanctions that range from written warnings, to the revocation of student aid, to expulsion. Recently students protested outside a board of governors meeting, and when they were not let in, they banged on the doors and windows. Danika Brisson, vice-president student affairs for the SFUO, says the university should not have the authority to sanction such activity with academic penalties.
“I don’t think [students] should have their grades affected by their extracurricular activities,” she said, adding that she believes that having a university policy against disruption is unnecessary because of other avenues the university could use. “If there is a disruption, they can call the police, and if there was something to be done, the police would do it, and that is enough to deal with these conflicts,” she said.