By Alexandra Macaulay Abdelwahab
Be careful what you say to your friends. If someone overhears your conversation and gets offended, you can be charged under the student code of non-academic conduct and go to sensitivity training.
Last week, The Globe and Mail described Queen’s University’s new inclusive language program facilitators as “conversation cops” because some students were worried it impeded their freedom of speech. Under the program, six students were hired to the residences to plan programs about identity issues, mediate conflicts and speak to students who use inappropriate language or speak about controversial issues.
Ryerson’s code of non-academic conduct follows the Ontario human rights code’s definition of harassment. So, if you say something that is prohibited, including slurs about race, gender or sexual orientation, you can be charged, said Ann Whiteside, Ryerson’s discrimination and harassment prevention officer.
“When you have two students talking and saying things that could be considered offensive to a passerby, that could be considered harassment,” Whiteside said. She explained that penalties range from just assuring you wouldn’t use the language in the future, to apologizing to the offended party, to attending sensitivity training.
Under Ryerson’s program, the school can only step in if a formal complaint is made.
However, members of Ryerson Security can be the complainants, said Imre Juurlink, a security supervisor.
In one instance, a security officer was offended by a student who reported a potential bike theft. The complainant reported, “three black guys around a bike so you know how bad that looks.” The security officer was also black and the alleged crime was just a student unlocking his bike with friends.
“I said that’s completely inappropriate, include that in your report and we’ll make you the complainant,” said Juurlink.
Some students feel the school’s discrimination and harassment prevention policy impedes their rights.
Jameson Pickard, a first-year urban planning student, thinks it violates his freedom of speech.
“I think that’s wrong. They shouldn’t be listening to what I’m saying.”
But Cydnie Kalkhourst, a first-year radio and television student thinks the policy is fair.
“I’m sure there are other words in the English language you can use to describe something,” she said.