Policy passes w/ concern
By Marshall Bellamy
A new discrimination policy has been approved by Western’s
Senate and will be headed to the Board of Governors for ratification,
despite some fears the policy could threaten academic freedom
at the university.
Michael Carroll, a sociology professor and senator, said a
clause in the Non-Discrimination/Harassment Policy has the
potential for some individuals to use the policy against academic
opinions they do not agree with. “It poses a threat to
legitimate exercise of academic freedom,” he said.
The clause Carroll referred to is Section 6.03 which reads, “Conduct
and/or behaviour also constitutes harassment — when it
creates an intimidating, demeaning or hostile working or academic
During last Friday’s Senate meeting, Carroll moved to
have a disclaimer added to the clause to reaffirm Western’s
commitment to academic freedom, however, the motion was rejected. “I
think we’ve got to make it clear this policy is not meant
to undermine academic freedom.”
“Academic freedom is free from discrimination — we
have a strong statement in both of these areas,” said
Western’s VP-academic Greg Moran.
“[A complaint] will have to be judged on its own merit — what
we have to do is be confident and vigilant in our judicious process,” Moran
said, the Western community as a whole has made a commitment
to academic freedom.
“It’s a policy that articulates an arena to bring
forward issues of rights on campus,” explained Western’s
acting VP-administration Jane O’Brien. She added the
policy is meant to protect members of the Western community
who do not fall under other policies.
According to O’Brien, the new policy will align the
university with provincial laws, encompass several other human
rights policies at Western and will aid in settling disputes.
Students will also be under the policy, she said.
“I think most universities have stood on their heads
to ensure people can say what they want to say,” noted
Western anthropology professor Regna Darnell, whose area of
expertise includes academic freedom.
Darnell pointed out that the issue is about balancing the
interests of academic freedom and the need to contain discrimination
and harassment at Western. “In general, the policy is
to be used with some degree of common sense,” she added.