{Published by the University of Waterloo administration on its website until 1998, during the period when the 1990 version of Policy 33 was in force; published since July 2003 by Kenneth Westhues, Professor of Sociology, University of Waterloo, as part of the Documentary History of the UW Ethics Committee, 1982-1998.)



In December 1988, when the University unwittingly found itself involved in the distribution of offensive jokes on USENET, the President expressed concern that the University have the capacity to deal with matters of unethical behaviour involving, for example, racial or sexist prejudice. At the same time, two other issues had been before Senate or were of concern to members of the University: the possible misuse of academic freedom by a faculty member at another institution and the use of University facilities for the Miss Oktoberfest Pageant. The establishment of the Committee was in response to these issues.


An ad hoc Committee to consider possible amendments or alterations to Policy 33 on Ethical Behaviour was struck on February 23, 1989. On that date, the Committee was given the following mandate:

To consider:

A. What additions and/or alterations may be appropriate in the existing policy on ethical behaviour to provide a basis for appropriate action in dealing with cases of offensive behaviour of a racist or sexist nature, in the light of ... specific provisions required to assure the free expression of ideas.

B. To consider the appropriateness of a code of ethics for UW faculty members, in light of the proposed code drafted by the Faculty Association and to consider as well the need for a corresponding code for other members of the University community, in the light of existing regulations (e.g., Academic Regulations & Student Discipline Policy and Examination Regulations & Procedures) by the University Senate.

C. How members of the Ethics Committee should be chosen, in the future.

Items one and two were subsequently revised on March 6, 1989 as follows:

A. What additions and/or alterations may be appropriate in the existing policy on ethical behaviour to provide a basis for appropriate action in dealing with cases of offensive behaviour.

B. To consider the appropriateness of a Code of Ethics for UW faculty members, in light of the proposed code drafted by the Faculty Association and to consider as well the need for a corresponding code for other members of the University community, in the light of existing policies (e.g., Policy 53).

Five members were appointed to this Committee: Frances McCart, a Psychology undergraduate student; Kirsten Morris, an Engineering graduate student; Professor Frank Thompson, Religious Studies; Professor Ralph Staal, Pure Mathematics; and Lois Claxton, Davis Centre Librarian, who chaired the Committee. In March, Jane Kalbfleisch (graduate student in English) replaced Kirsten Morris and, in May, Jenus Fiouzi (undergraduate student in Mathematics) replaced Frances McCart. In January 1990, Frank Thompson resigned from the Committee and issued a minority report (copy attached).

The Committee considered its terms of reference to be fairly specific, and not those of a general reconsideration of Policy 33. A committee with a more comprehensive mandate should be assumed to require terms of reference which, while indicating breadth, would at the same time give a clear indication of purpose.


The Committee met weekly from April to June, 1989. The Committee determined that it would attempt to assess the adequacy of Policy 33 in two ways. First, the Committee reviewed material documenting the issues which prompted the review of Policy 33 in order to determine the ability or inability of Policy 33 and other relevant UW policies to address these issues. The specific issues included USENET, UWO's Statement on Academic Freedom, and the Oktoberfest Pageant. The Committee discovered that while policies existed which could address these issues, the principles on which these policies were based were not clear.

Second, members of the Committee contacted the following individuals to determine whether, in their experience of addressing matters of an ethical nature, they had found inadequacies in the present UW Policy:

Ombudsman, Matt Erickson
Dean of Students, Ernie Lucy
Graduate and Faculty Deans
Chairman, Ethics Committee, Peter Ponzo
Chairman, ad hoc Committee which drafted Policy 33, Michael McDonald
Faculty -- fifteen faculty members from the Faculties of Arts, Environmental Studies, Science and Engineering.
While none of those surveyed identified inadequacies, several suggestions were made which the Committee has incorporated in its proposed amendments. Included are the following:

use Policy 33 as a starting point for solving problems of an ethical nature: the Policy would offer the University's general philosophy on all ethical issues

append ethical references in other UW policies to Policy 33

clarify the role between the Sexual Harassment Officer and the Ethics Committee

fuzziness concerning boundary between the "Ethics" and "Grievance" committees might be clarified

the University's ethical criteria

several comments that the Policy is reactive and should be more "proactive"
The Committee issued a report and draft Policy in July 1989, which was discussed widely on campus during the fall term (e.g., by the Staff Relations Committee, the Sexual Harassment Advisory Board, in Faculty Councils, and in Senate). The Committee reconvened in January 1990 to consider feedback and, subsequently, modified the Policy slightly (i.e.: to refer to 'physical characteristics' [I.D., page 1]; to add a 'Discrimination' section [II.B., page 2]; to refer to UW Policy 62 [II.C., page 3]; to insert "promptly" (III., page 3]; and to talk about dispensation of formal reports and appeals [IV.D.5. and 6., pages 6 and 7]).


The Committee chose not to incorporate a statement re the use of UW computing and communications facilities into the Policy. It could be argued that unauthorized use of UW facilities for transmission of questionable material involves some ethical elements, but such issues can be addressed under the terms of revised Policy 33 (for example: Sections II.A. and B. of the Policy refer to 'Discrimination', including any act of communication; and Section III. states "...it is assumed that those with academic or employment supervisory authority who detect what they believe to be violations of this Policy will act promptly to provide or initiate the appropriate remedial or...disciplinary measures..."). In any case, members of the University community should be aware that the use of materials or facilities belonging to others without permission, or any interference upon a user or the system itself can lead to disciplinary action or result in civil and/or criminal consequences.

A. Recommended Additions/Alterations to Policy 33 and Comments

General Principles [Introductory Paragraph and Section A]
The Committee sought to develop within Policy 33 a more positive stance. Given the likelihood that questions of an ethical nature will continue to arise in different areas of the University's operations, the committee felt that it was incumbent upon the University to enunciate, clearly, the principles to which it is committed.

[Section B]

The Committee recognizes that there are risks involved in attaching conditions to academic freedom, and that these risks must be diligently guarded against, but it rejects the point of view that this outweighs all other considerations. In taking this position, the Committee feels that its views are not only justified, but consistent with views currently held in our society.

Implementation of the relation between freedom and responsibility is left to the realm of judgment in particular cases.

[Section D]

The Committee removed the specific examples to avoid interpretation based solely on the examples; references to the Charter of Rights were added to reflect current legislation.

[Section F]

Because the Committee recognizes that general principles in other UW policies can have a bearing on the interpretation and application of Policy 33, it recommends that such general principles be considered part of Policy 33. The Committee also felt that the Policy should bring together and list other policies and resources relevant to the treatment of ethical questions within the University. This listing is found as Appendix C.

[Section G]

The ad hoc committee was generally appreciative of the directions taken by the previous committee in its development of Policy 33, and recommends that previous Appendix A be retained and continue to be printed with the Policy, but as Appendix B.

Specific Principles
[Section A]

The Committee replaced the former definition of sexual harassment to conform with that contained in Vice-President, Academic & Provost's memo of November 1, 1988 on sexual harassment.

In response to suggestions received, the Committee added this section to emphasize the remedial rather than punitive objective of the Policy, the informal, confidential one-on-one approach, and the availability of alternative resources.

The Ethics Committee
[Section IV.A.]

In keeping with current practice of similar committees, the Committee recommends that the Ethics Committee now be advisory to the Vice-President, Academic & Provost.

[Section IV.A.6]

To acquaint new members with other resources available and to equip them to handle cases better, the Committee recommends such a training session.

B. Code of Ethics

The Committee was divided in its estimate of the appropriateness of developing a code of ethics for the University. The majority of committee members agreed with the previous drafting committee that it would not be appropriate or desirable to attempt to write a general code of ethics. One member believed that it should be possible to frame a set of agreed principles which would then offer guidance to members of the University as (new) ethical questions arose.

The Committee recommends that if a code of ethics is to be developed, it be developed only with the fullest consideration throughout the University.

C. How Members of the Ethics Committee Should be Chosen in the Future [Section IV.B.]

This Committee recommends only that the phrase "in consultation with the appropriate constituency" be added.

The ad hoc Committee discussed the size of the Ethics Committee and whether it should be expanded (e.g., to include undergraduate student representation). Consensus was that a committee of three works well. It should be noted that two members of this ad hoc Committee have experience as members of the Ethics Committee.

With respect to having representation from the undergraduate student constituency, the ad hoc Committee discussed logistical problems (e.g., undergraduates on the co-op system, length of appointment possible) and, also, noted that if two groups of students (undergraduate and graduate) were to be represented, there would be equally good reasons for representing two groups of faculty (e.g., tenured and non-tenured) and of staff (union and non-union). The size of the Ethics Committee would, then, be doubled -- a significant change. The larger a committee is, the more difficult to schedule meetings and maintain confidentiality; also, it may be less stressful for someone to appear before a committee of three when cases reach the formal hearing stage.

Lois Claxton, Chairman

for the Committee
Lois Claxton
Jenus Fiouzi
Jane Kalbfleisch
Ralph Staal

February 16, 1990


Text of Policy 33 | Minority Report | Appendix B



March 1996

Maintained by [email protected]


Mary Lou Klopp
University Secretariat
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1