Students at Ryerson University are starting the school year with new courses, new clothes, and a new code telling them how they should behave.On September 3, Ryerson adopted Policy 61, which seeks to hold students accountable for all behaviour outside the classroom that interferes with the interests of the university or the activities of its members and neighbours.Policy 61 survived an opposition campaign led by the Ryerson Students’ Union including posters, leaflets, and petitions, but student leaders still have concerns. RSU VP Education Rebecca Rose told The Varsity that she worries the new regulations could be used to silence student voices on campus.Rose said student leaders were particularly concerned since thirteen U of T students were threatened action under the Code of Student Conduct after their involvement in a March 20 sit-in protest at Simcoe Hall this year. RSU executives noticed that the free speech provisions in Policy 61 were taken almost word for word from U of T’s Code of Student Conduct. “We came to realize we weren’t quite as safe as we thought,” she said.University of Toronto Student Union president Sandy Hudson says that Ryerson students are right to be concerned, particularly about the free speech provisions. “We find it patronizing and extremely concerning that our universities have taken to policing the behaviour of students,” she said. “I think both Ryerson and U of T students should be prepared to challenge the very existence of their respective administrations’ codes.”Hudson cites research suggesting that the aim of non-academic codes is to stifle student dissent, and notes that student unions across the country stand in opposition to such regulations.Rose also says that the language in Policy 61 is unclear about which student activities, particularly online, might get them in hot water with the university.
Both non-academic codes—at Ryerson and U of T—extend the university’s non-academic jurisdiction to students’ behaviour on the Internet, but do so only in passing, failing to specify the extent to which students’ online behaviour could be monitored. More specific Internet regulations found in an earlier draft of Policy 61 failed to make their way into the final code. Now that the regulations are official university policy, the RSU intends to educate students about their rights under the new rules. “The policies aren’t really advertised all that well,” notes Rose, “and it’s not until after the fact that they’re really thrown into students’ faces, and that’s unfortunate.”University of Ottawa dropped its code of conduct before the start of the semester due to staunch opposition from students due to similar concerns. Several other Ontario universities are in the midst of such battles, including Fanshawe College in London.