Institutional Environment

Discrimination, Harassment, and Violence
Disability Accommodations
Sexualised Violence and Harassment

Policies and Legislation You Can Turn To:

SFU: GP-18 Human RightsGP-44 Sexual Violence and Misconduct Prevention, Education and SupportGP-25 Repsonse to Violence and Threatening BehaviourGP-26 Accessibility for Students with DisabilitiesS-10.05 Student ConductWalk this Path With Us report; forthcoming EDI work

Legislation: Federal Criminal Code section 319 (1-3), BC Human Rights Code

“Discrimination undermines the objectives of full and free participation of all community members, violates the fundamental rights, personal dignity and integrity of individuals or groups of individuals.” GP-18: Human Rights Policy

According to institutional policy GP-18 and the expectations laid out in the BC Human Rights Codeall SFU community members have the right to a university environment free from discrimination, harassment, and violence in all its forms to ensure full participation in education. This is a physical and emotional safety that is to be expected in all university spaces including classrooms, online environments, and work environments. This includes protection from:

  • Sexualised violence and harassment (see “What support do I have if I experience sexualised violence and harassment?”) ;
  • Hate speech (the wilful promotion of hatred against any identifiable group or individual) and other forms of verbal abuse;
  • unwelcome remarks or jokes about one’s race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, class, disability, mental health, marital status, national or ethnic origin (recongising that many of these grounds of discrimination are often over-lapping);
  • threatening or intimidating behaviour; and 
  • workplace discrimination or unfair hiring practices (see section 7 for further details).

When we think of the many forms that harassment and violence can take, it is often the most obvious examples such as sexual assault or overt hate speech that come to mind first. Though protection from these forms of violence is very important, focusing on these alone can allow more insidious actions to continue. These more covert forms disrupt the trust and relationships necessary to achieve any school’s mission or student’s goal of quality and safe education. Most observers within and outside the learning environment would agree that fair and civil treatment of students and workers should be embedded in the ecology of academic environments.

Some warning signs to be aware of: 

  • Favouritism
  • Bullying
  • Unreasonable or arbitrary demands 
  • Requiring students or workers to perform personal tasks
  • Verbal intimidation or threatening behaviour
  • Discussing subject matter that makes you feel tokenized or when hate speech and violence are a part of classroom or lab discussion or pedagogy
  • Sexually inappropriate or suggestive communication (digital or verbal)
  • Delaying or withholding the signing of documents such as visa renewals, applications or administrative forms of any kind
  • Inappropriate criticism or “compliments”

Should any of these experiences occur, you have the right to speak up in class and/or privately report this behaviour to the Graduate Student Society Advocate, the SFU Ombudsperson, or Human Rights Office. 

It is the opinion of the GSS that respectful and empathetic conduct in the classroom is paramount to a conducive learning environment. A post-secondary education has many functions including providing the opportunity to strengthen students and their ability to articulate themselves and represent their ideas when it is most important – when challenged outside of the university and when trying to produce meaningful change in the world. Though academic freedom and the discussion of controversial subject matter is integral to learning, it should not come at the cost of human dignity. The values and principles of academic freedom must never be used to undermine personhood or to progress values based in hate. Furthermore, institutional room booking policies should not be used to support the promotion of hate speech that is harmful to many communities. Ensuring a safe and respectful learning environment is the responsibility of every person at Simon Fraser University. It is also the responsibility of all members of the SFU community to continuously engage in critical investigations of academic ideologies and practices that have been and continue to be harmful. If you feel you have experienced a violation of your human rights and inherent dignity, please contact the GSS advocate.  


Understanding Academic Accommodations through GP-26

According to policy GP-26, an academic accommodation is a modification or extension of SFU resources, teaching or evaluation procedures that supports students facing barriers to learning due to a form of disability.Reasonable accommodations can include priority registration, extensions, course modification or withdrawal, accessible on-campus housing, and financial assistance that are negotiated between instructors and students, while being based on best practices determined by the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL).

Implementing academic accomodations is a process you have the right to enact at any point in your academic career. It may feel natural to seek these accommodations through your supervisor or Department Chair. However, it is best to seek support through the CAL to ensure you have the benefits of experience and best practices of accommodating accessibility needs held by this office. 

What do I have to provide?

You have the right to present your need for accommodation through whatever documentation you have that is authoritative, comprehensive, and current. In respect to the inaccessibility of a formal psychiatric diagnosis and other similar medicalised procedures, the CAL has the responsibility to consider any documentation brought to them. 

You do not have to provide documentation of your need for accommodation to your supervisor or professor. Medical documentation contains information that is private to you. Even if your instructor seems to be in a discipline that might give them the background knowledge to be able to interpret your documentation, you should be careful about agreeing to share it. Discuss the matter with CAL or your doctor first. 

How do you say “No” to your instructor?

Be polite but firm! 

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t feel comfortable doing that.”

“I suggest you to talk to CAL” 

“I have given you all the information I feel should be necessary.”

You have a right to confidentiality in this process. All documents and information will be handled only as permitted by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of B.C. 

How are accommodations put in place?

You have the right to participate in the process of determining appropriate accommodations. Though accommodations are rooted in institutional policy and procedure, case law, and best practices, your agency and understanding of your own needs as a student enacting this process is important. 

Together, you and the Centre for Accessible Learning will assess the need for assistance and accommodation, make appropriate recommendations based on the documentation submitted and coordinate the support services to be provided.

If you are dissatisfied or disagree with the accommodations recommended by the Centre for Accessible Learning, a number of options for appeal are in place, beginning with the right to meet with the Director to review your concerns.


Understanding Support for Sexualised Violence and Harassment Under GP-44

GP-44  is the most recent and thorough policy the university has in terms of the different ways members of the university community can access support, education, or address issues of sexual violence or harrassment. Although this policy encompasses the entire community, many of the procedures and your rights are included in Collective Agreements, the Student Code of Conduct, and the Human Rights processes. 

All members of the SFU community have the right to comprehensive, trauma-informed support from the Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office (SVSPO) regardless of which procedures apply to their specific circumstances. 

Should you require support, or would like resources to assist someone, please contact the SVSPO directly for the best resources. The resources the SVSPO offers are available to anyone – regardless of whether you pursue a formal process through policies or not. In keeping with their trauma-informed support, information shared with the SVSPO is confidential.

The entire campus community also has the right to access comprehensive training and education for reducing, preventing, and responding to sexualised violence.