The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) is continuing its practice of censoring students whose views it dislikes. On October 30, 2014, Ryerson business student Carter Grant and his group Students for Life at Ryerson (SFLR) applied for registered club status. Without registered status, student groups are denied equal access to RSU space and club resources, making it difficult to engage students and hold events. Their application was denied, and on February 23, 2015, the RSU Board of Directors voted unanimously to reject SFLR’s appeal, because the RSU “opposes…groups, meetings, or events that promote misogynist views towards woman [sic] and ideologies that promote gender inequity, challenges women’s right [sic] to bodily autonomy, or justifies [sic] sexual assault,” based on a motion passed by RSU council in March of 2013.
The RSU has not explained how SFLR’s message, which the group defines as pro-life on issues of abortion and euthanasia, is misogynist or promoting inequity or women’s rights. Nevertheless, the RSU has decided once again to illegally discriminate against students because of their values and beliefs.
This is the third time in two years that the RSU has moved to shut out student expression. The JCCF’s 2014 Campus Freedom Index names the RSU as one of the 10 worst student unions in the country, earning a ‘D’ for policies and ‘F’ for practices of censoring students with views they dislike.
In October of 2013, Carter Grant applied to have another student group, Preserving Human Dignity at Ryerson (PHDR), registered as an official club. He received an email on October 28, 2013 from the RSU informing him that his pro-life group would not be approved. Campus Groups Administrator Leatrice O’Neill gave no reasons for the refusal, and directed Mr. Grant to speak to RSU President Melissa Palermo, who explained that the union was worried Grant’s student group would prevent some students from feeling “comfortable”, “welcome”, and included,” despite the fact that PHDR met all of the requirements outlined in the Student Groups Policy. The JCCF wrote to RSU President Melissa Palermo on January 16, 2014, pointing out that the RSU’s censorship is discriminatory, contrary to freedom of expression, and illegal. The RSU ignored the advice.
The RSU also denied certification to a men’s issues student group, in March of 2013, because the RSU was worried the student group was affiliated with two external organizations, “A Voice for Men and the Canadian Association for Equality,” they viewed as “in some jurisdictions…a hate group”. The men’s issues group’s constitution said its goal was to “create a progressive and constructive voice and lend representation to any and all Ryerson students concerned with the issues of men and boys.” This decision followed a motion passed by RSU council on March 4, 2013, which mandates the RSU to officially oppose “Groups, Meetings or events [that] promote misogynist views towards women and ideologies that promote gender inequity, challenges women’s right to bodily autonomy, or justifies sexual assault; The concept of misandry as it ignores structural inequity that exist between men and women; Groups, meetings events or initiatives [that] negate the need to centre women’s voices in the struggle for gender equity.”
The RSU is acting in violation of Ryerson University’s own Statement on Free Speech, which states:
Ryerson embraces unequivocally the free exchange of ideas and the ideal of intellectual engagement within a culture of mutual respect…Everyone who is part of the University, as well as guests and visitors, has a role to play in this shared enterprise. This responsibility extends to both proponents and detractors of any idea or point of view. Recognizing and respecting diversity of people, thought and expression are essential and an integral part of the ideal.
The JCCF is calling on the RSU to immediately reverse the decision of the Board of Directors and give SFLR, and all student groups, the same access to RSU space and resources as other fee-paying students.