{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.)


Appendix B
The Ad Hoc Committee to Recommend a Policy on Ethical Behaviour was established by President Matthews on February 23, 1981, with the following broad mandate:
I. To develop a policy including a code of ethics to be a guide to the relationships between faculty, staff and students.

II. To propose existing or new mechanisms that may be necessary or desirable to be used in the investigations of allegations of unethical behaviour by a faculty member, staff member or student.

III. To submit a report incorporating the above to the President by December 1, 1981. (This date was later extended to February 1, 1982.)

Following is the text of the report. I have asked that it be circulated widely for comment by interested faculty and staff members and students. Responses should be made in writing, in the first instance, for receipt in the Secretariat, Needles Hall, Room 3060, by March 31, 1982. The Committee will review responses, and may schedule a special public meeting to hear additional comments if it feels it is necessary.

Members of the University community are also invited to contact Michael McDonald, Chairman of the Committee (Department of Philosophy, ext.3594), about any aspects of the report.

The final outcome of this process will be the issuance of a policy on "ethical behaviour".

Douglas Wright

The realm of "ethical behaviour" was left open to determination by the Committee but it was understood that, broadly speaking, it should concern itself with matters other than those of academic ethics strictly speaking, e.g., plagiarism, cheating on exams (which were to be covered by the report of the Senate Committee on Academic Regulations and Discipline).

To interpret its mandate, the Committee has availed itself of the advice and experience of others within and without the University. The Committee has sought and studied relevant policy statements and reports from other universities and academic groups both in Canada and elsewhere. It has also had interviews with representative faculty and staff members and students. All members of the University community were extended a general invitation to aid the Committee in its work. As a result, a large number of suggestions were received about what should or should not be included in a policy on ethical behaviour.

The Committee quickly decided not to write a general code of ethics for faculty, staff and students. For one thing, such codes tend to be general and unenforceable. They also tend to annoy those--the vast majority of faculty, staff and students--who conduct their relations with each other in a decent and honourable manner, by suggesting that nearly everyone is at fault, while the minority, who choose either deliberately or in ignorance to act otherwise, are not touched by such generalities.
The Committee also recognized that many specific directives on many likely ethical issues are already embodied in existing University policies, such as the aforementioned Policy on Academic Regulations and Discipline, the Policy on Faculty Appointments, the Committee on Research Involving Human Subjects, the Policy on Private Corporations, etc. Indeed, many matters brought to the Committee's attention were already covered by such policies, for example, such serious matters as faculty manipulation of students for factional purposes in the context of departmental politics, and the failure of some faculty members to carry out important teaching responsibilities (e.g., by being inaccessible or failing to write promised letters of reference).

There were some matters that came to our attention that we found deplorable and not already covered by University policies, but that we did not believe should be directly dealt with in this set of recommendations. The Committee was presented with sexist materials from a student newspaper on this campus that it found both tasteless and offensive. We could not in good conscience, however, recommend a policy which would license censorship by the University. Nevertheless, faculty members and administrators can unmistakably indicate to the writers and publishers of such materials both their displeasure and their considered opinion that such conduct is unworthy of those who aspire to be fellow-professionals. Beyond this lie the remedies of law concerning pornography as well as libel and slander.

The Committee was given other examples of boorish behaviour. While such behaviour (e.g., sexist or racist "humour" in lectures and "backbiting" by fellow employees) can be of such intensity or frequency that it would be actionable under this and other University policies, there will probably be many more incidents of such behaviour which fall below this threshold. This does not mean, however, that it does not warrant pressure from administrative superiors or peers.

Finally, matters were brought to our attention that are beyond University policy as such and require police action, e.g., violence and intimidation between students.

The Committee has singled out a number of specific problems that it believes can be usefully dealt with in a policy statement. No doubt the list will prove with time to be incomplete and will require additions. Perhaps, also with time, some matters will become dead-letter articles. (We have not, as such a committee might have done ten years ago, said anything about student sit-ins or the use of the classroom as a political soapbox.) Beyond this, we have tried to enunciate broad general principles that would have general acceptance at UW but still have some "bite".

We have presented three such principles in the first section (I) of the proposed policy. The first states that all segments of the University community--faculty, staff, and students--have jobs to do, and should be allowed to do them without undue interference by other members of the University community. The second is a non-discrimination clause borrowed from human rights legislation. It can be described as a statement to the effect that the University will make decisions about opportunities, benefits and status on the basis of the merits of individuals --either academic or employment-- and not on the basis of irrelevant features such as race, sex and religion. The third is concerned with the possible abuse of positions of authority--whether the authority be of an academic kind (e.g., teacher-student) or of an employment kind (e.g., department head-staff member).

We believe that the first principle should be more or less confined to on-campus situations, while the third principle is to some extent of wider scope and, so to speak, "portable".

While we think these general principles have clear and important applications, we believe that we must be quite explicit about two of their specific implications. The first concerns sexual harassment. The second involves a more precise statement about an often-related matter, viz. the abuse of supervisory authority. Both require some further comments here.
A.Sexual Harassment

Clearly a major, if not the major, reason for the Committee's creation was to provide a statement on sexual harassment. In fact many universities have drafted or are in the process of drafting separate policies on this problem alone (including York (1980), McMaster (1981), Concordia (1981), Stanford (1981), and Yale, (1979,1980)).

It is also at this time a matter of government concern (cf. An Act to Revise and Extend Protection of Human Rights in Ontario, Bill 7, 1981, Part I, 6, 2-3). While we have tried to put sexual harassment in the general context of trying to ensure the well-functioning of all segments of the University community, it has been one of our major concerns, too. We cannot say with any precision how widespread the problem of sexual harassment is at the University of Waterloo (in fact the evidence available here and elsewhere is mostly anecdotal and only recently the object of scientific scrutiny); however, much of the testimony has suggested that the problem is of concern at UW, and we believe that the prevention of even one such incident here would warrant a policy statement.

Other statements on sexual harassment include those by the Ontario Federation of Students (1980), Fanshaw College (1981), Ryerson (1981), and CAUT (1981). Also see Sexual Harassment: An Employment Issue CUPA Monograph, 1981; Catherine MacKinnon Sexual Harassment of Working Women, Yale 1980; Constance Backhouse and Leah Cohen The Secret Oppression: Sexual Harassment of Working Women, Macmillan, 1978.


We have tried to select a definition of "sexual harassment" that covers the problem but is precise enough to be enforced fairly. (From The Preliminary Report: Towards the Establishment of Sexual Harassment Grievance Procedures at Ryerson, September 1981, p.11.) We have centred on "unwanted attention of a sexually-oriented nature". This would include sexual insults or taunts, requests for sexual favours, gestures or actions (such as touching, fondling, up to and including sexual assault). Sexual harassment might involve the abuse of supervisory authority (e.g., threats or offers involving grades or salary) or it might not (e.g., from fellow-students or employees or even from those under one's supervision). The former violates the Committee's third general principle concerning the abuse of supervisory authority; the latter violates the first general principle, concerning undue interference in another's work.

First, it is important to note that this definition centres on the recipient's reaction, which may, admittedly, vary from person to person. The Committee does not believe that this unduly restricts or inhibits normal social relationships, for it is assumed that mutual consent is morally essential to such relationships. Moreover, the definition should centre on the recipient's reaction for:

historical reasons having to do with the different socialization of the majority of victims of sexual harassment, and

the University by its nature as an educational institution will attract individuals of varying backgrounds and levels of maturity.
Secondly, the definition, while reasonably specific, must leave the determination of sexual harassment in particular cases to the appropriate investigatory bodies.

Thirdly, the Committee believes that the wording in question covers the matter of sexual harassment as raised in the recent act to amend the Human Rights Code in Ontario. However, it goes further than this Code by requiring all those in the University community to refrain from sexual harassment, not just those in authority. The Committee thinks this a reasonable extension of the University's authority because of the institutions's responsibility for providing a decent academic and work environment for all its members. (In this respect the Committee thinks the University's responsibility is limited to the campus; however, the abuse of supervisory authority is of concern even if it occurs off campus.)

Fourth, the Committee thinks it important that there be a University response to the problem of sexual harassment. We should not be content with the Human Rights Code here. (It should be observed that the Human Rights Commission usually asks complainants if they have pursued local remedies. The provision, or lack thereof, of local remedies may well be an object of the Commission's scrutiny.) The University has sufficient interest in the conduct of its own members to warrant such a prohibition (see page 7, York University report on the "nexus" of university concern). In particular, the University should be extremely careful that those to whom it entrusts authority do not abuse that authority; the abuse of academic authority in the teacher-student relationship runs directly counter to the most basic aims of the University by threatening the trust that is essential to such a relationship and corrupting (in the case of offers or threats) the academic evaluation process.

B. Abuses of Supervisory Authority (Other than Sexual Harassment)

The Committee was naturally led from a consideration of the second sort of sexual harassment to a consideration of other possible abuses of supervisory authority. Presumably, if it is wrong to demand sexual favours for grades or other academic or employment benefits, it is also wrong to demand or require other irrelevant services. It should be patently obvious that academic evaluation should be strictly on the basis of academic merits and that employee evaluation should be on the basis of employee performance. The introduction of other criteria is not only an injustice to the person so evaluated (and, possibly, others who are not so evaluated), but also threatens the integrity of the University's evaluation processes and so undermines the very foundations on which the University is constructed.

Under this area of policy the Committee includes making academic or employment benefits conditional upon unauthorized payments (e.g., soliciting or accepting money for grades) or services of benefit to the recipient. Here, those who occupy supervisory positions and who, in their private capacities, also employ students or workers under their supervision, must be careful to separate their roles as University supervisors and as private employers so as not to make benefits in the former conditional on performance in the latter.

The Committee wishes to go further and point out that this problem may arise even if there is no question of self-interest involved. Sometimes those with supervisory authority solicit money or other forms of support for charitable organizations (both University and non-University), political parties, and other groups and causes. They must take great care not to give even the appearance of making academic/work assessments conditional upon the donation of money or services to such groups or causes. It is important to remember here that a supervisory relationship can change the nature of a request for support to, say, a charity, from an innocent request by a faculty member when made of a colleague, to a serious threat when made of a student. The Committee would recommend as a model here the University's practice of maintaining strict confidentiality with regard to contributions to the Federated Appeal, scholarships and other University fund drives.

Another matter which concerns the Committee under this heading of "the abuse of supervisory authority" is the academic evaluation or supervision by faculty members (including graduate students acting in teaching roles) of members of their own families or those with whom they have a family-like relationship ("lovers" or "co-vivants"). Such supervision can raise conflicts-of-interest. It may also raise the possibility of sexual harassment, especially with regard to "co-vivants". Moreover, such supervision raises the possibility of "favouritism" or, almost as damaging, the widespread suspicion that such is the case. We think that, at a minimum, such relationships should be reported by the faculty member to the appropriate supervisor (Chairman or Dean). Where possible, supervision of family members et alii should be avoided, and the appropriate Chairman or Dean should take the appropriate steps to ensure this. Where this is not possible, appropriate steps should be taken to ensure the integrity of the evaluation procedure (e.g., by providing outside evaluation). The Committee does not mean to suggest that such supervision of those in close proximity to oneself is necessarily corrupt. The Committee takes an institutional stand here; that is, that the University has good reason to request that a teacher or supervisor avoid even the appearance of a conflict-of-interest.

C. Non-Discrimination

In federal and provincial law, and in many collective agreements, there is a non-discrimination clause pledging "equal treatment in the enjoyment of services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, age, marital status, family or handicap" (from the Act to Revise and Extend Protection of Human Rights in Ontario). The Committee thinks it important that the University make a similar declaration so that members of the University are clear that they have a right to non-discriminatory treatment by the University and, in addition, have a right to the internal procedures and remedies that the University can provide.

D. Confidentiality of Records

At a number of points in the Committee's discussions issues concerning the confidentiality of records and documents at the University have arisen. Concern has been expressed about access to personnel (faculty and staff) files and to various records kept about students. The Committee realizes that various segments of the University have adopted certain working procedures with regard to records. This includes Personnel, Payroll, and the Registrar's Office. The Committee feels that an effort should be made to make such procedures known to those affected by them. Beyond this, the Committee thinks the University should seriously consider drafting a policy with regard to such records to ensure both the accuracy and fairness of such records and, moreover, to safeguard the confidentiality of such records.

In drafting such a policy, the Committee thinks that special attention should be paid to the problems posed by increased computerization of data within the University. It is important, too, to recognize that records are kept in diverse places for diverse purposes, so that, for example, a student may well have a "record" with Health Services, the Student Village, campus Security, individual faculty members, a department, the Library, and so on. Some general guidelines should be given to these and other record-keepers to ensure (as far as possible) against abuse or error. Specific procedures should be required, where they are not already available, to implement an adequate policy on University records concerning faculty, staff, and students.

An important element in such a policy would be general and specific statements about an individual's access to his or her own records. The general principle to be followed is that there must be good reasons to restrict an individual's access to any parts of his or her own records. Such reasons should be clearly stated in the policy.

E. Mechanisms for Enforcement, Implementation of Principles

One of the Committee's foremost concerns was the implementation of the above principles. While we recognize that even the publication of a report of this kind could have a salutary educative effect, we believe that the University has an obligation to enforce as well as promulgate these principles. This raises a question about the appropriate mechanisms for enforcement. Clearly, there are a number of existing University policies and procedures that are relevant here, including the Policy on Faculty Appointments (53), the Staff Grievance Procedure (36), and Academic Regulations and Discipline (Senate, April, 1981). These and other University policies and regulations partially define "appropriate conduct" for faculty, staff, and students and provide disciplinary procedures to help ensure that conduct.

The Committee recognized that the principles set forth in the policy it recommends could and should be added to the notion of appropriate conduct for faculty, staff, and students. Beyond that the Committee took the view that these and other University policies and regulations, provide the appropriate procedures for disciplining those who violate these principles. Yet, this does not in itself ensure that existing policies and regulations provide a satisfactory range of remedies for those who have been injured by violation of these fundamental principles.

Accordingly, the Committee looked at existing procedures to see if they already provided or could, with minor alteration, be made to provide such a range of remedies. The Committee then carefully considered a variety of cases that could arise under this policy. For some of these cases, it was reasonably clear that existing procedures could be made to provide satisfactory remedies for those who had been injured. For example, if a student had been denied an appropriate grade because of racial discrimination it could be anticipated that existing grade appeal mechanisms would provide the appropriate remedies, viz. regrading the work after its re-evaluation by appropriate experts in the field in question. Yet, to continue with a variant of the above example, the Committee was not sure that existing mechanisms were always entirely suitable. Imagine a student who alleges that because of sexual harassment, she (or he) has been unable to complete satisfactorily the work assigned in a given course. There are two basic problems here. First, re-evaluation of the work in question could not address the central complaint, viz. that work-performance was adversely affected. Secondly, and probably more importantly, because the harassment was of a sexual nature, it is unlikely that such a complaint would ever be lodged in the first place. Both reasons point to the need for a special procedure to implement this policy.

There is a third reason. It could well be the case that individual members of the University community might be wrongfully denied (according to the principles stated in the first two sections of the proposed policy) benefits, services, opportunities, and facilities for which there are no specific grievance mechanisms. It is all well and good to say that in such cases administrative action is possible, but that we think is not entirely satisfactory for a number of reasons:

One of the principal reasons for setting up this Committee was to avoid the necessity of forcing administrators to invent ad hoc procedures on the spot.

Administrative procedures by their nature do not meet the standards of procedural justice that regular grievance procedures do. Thus, if the University takes the principles enunciated in this report seriously, it should be willing to make reasonable efforts to ensure that a victim has a fair opportunity to secure a fair remedy.

Given the number and variety of University policies and regulations, there is a real danger that serious injustices could "slip through the cracks".

Current policies and regulations are directed at specific segments of the University community, i.e., aimed particularly at faculty or staff or students. This poses two real problems: (a) it doesn't deal directly with interrelationships of faculty, staff, and students (e.g., would secretaries who believed that they were the victims of harassment by faculty members seek remedies under the policy for staff or for faculty?); and (b) if the principles set out in Section 1 of the policy are as basic to the existence of the University community as the Committee thinks they are, then it would be wrong to reinforce the perception that many on campus have of University procedures, viz. as providing separate but unequal "justice" that unfairly favours faculty members over staff members and students.

For such reasons the Committee thought it appropriate to recommend special procedures to implement this policy. Some comments on specific aspects of that implementation are now in order.

Trust and Sensitivity
A primary concern of this Committee was to establish a procedure that would enjoy the trust of all segments of the University community. For this reason it was proposed that a committee be set up to administer this policy. For purposes of this report, we call it the "Ethics" Committee.

Both the size and composition of the "Ethics" Committee are important. It cannot be too large or else individuals will worry about confidentiality when seeking advice on specific problems. It also should be approachable by all segments of the University community. For these reasons it is recommended that there be a three-person committee--one student, one staff member, and one faculty member. Needless to say, the success of the "Ethics" Committee depends on the actions of the people appointed to it and how those actions are perceived by other members of the University community. For that reason, we would recommend the appointment of sensible and sensitive individuals who can work well together and enjoy the confidence of all segments of the University community. Because of the complexity of University procedures (mentioned above), it is important that there be someone on the "Ethics" Committee who is familiar with University policies and practices.

Concern with the sensitive nature of the issues that this small committee would be handling is manifested in another way within the procedures set forth. In III.B. of the policy, one of the primary roles of the "Ethics" Committee is described, viz. informal advice-giving and dispute-settlement. Although the next sections on formal procedure take considerably longer to state, it is reasonable to anticipate that this informal role will occupy most of the "Ethics" Committee's time and energy; and, if all goes well, this will be the role in which it should be most efficacious. Indeed, we would expect that the "Ethics" Committee would make every reasonable effort to resolve complaints informally before the hardening of positions which would inevitably follow making the complaint formal. There is no way in a policy statement to provide all of the "words of wisdom" such a group will need in this informal mode. All that we can say is to appoint the best people possible and extend to them the utmost cooperation and support.

Overlap with Other Policies
As should be evident from what was said above, it was recognized that this recommended policy to some extent (in often unforeseeable ways) overlaps a variety of existing University policies and procedures. For that reason we decided to give the "Ethics" Committee a kind of "yardmaster" role in handling complaints both informally and formally. Informally, we hope that the "Ethics" Committee will steer those who seek remedies under this policy to the appropriate mechanisms set out in University policies and, where appropriate, even assist these individuals in making use of such mechanisms. With formal complaints, there has to be a formal analogue to this, viz. what we talk about in III.C.3 of the Policy as "jurisdiction". Despite its apparent complexity, the point of this section is simple: the "Ethics" Committee has to meet to determine whether the formal hearing procedures set out in this policy are the appropriate ones for the given formal complaint. The "Ethics" Committee will have to consider a number of factors in determining its "jurisdiction". It will have to consider its own expertise or lack thereof, the purposes of the relevant alternative policies and regulations and the nature of the case, in particular its sensitivity. In emphasizing sensitivity once again, we are not suggesting that existing "hearing committees" are insensitive; rather, we would stress a serious problem of perception--that not only must such a committee be sensitive to the plight of the complainant, it must also be perceived by all parties to be sensitive.

Fairness to All
The last sentence brings up a basic point, viz. that of fairness not only for the complainant, but also for those (if any) against whom complaints are lodged.

Note: It is not inconceivable that the proposed policy could be violated in such a way that while there is a victim who requires a remedy, there is no specific individual who has culpably violated this policy. The report is not directed to such cases--i.e., where the failure seems "institutional" rather than "individual". Although it should be noted that the proposed policy as a whole can deal with such problems

In drafting this report and policy statement, fairness to the accused has been a foremost concern. We have tried to ensure such fairness in two ways. First, we have emphasized that the primary aim of the procedures under this policy is remedial and not disciplinary. Second, we have tried to build into this policy such procedural safeguards as we think would meet principles of natural justice and be generally acceptable to the University community at this time.

Hearing Committee
For this last-mentioned reason of general acceptability, we decided that it was best to offer a variety of alternative models for hearing a complaint (see III.C.4 of the Policy). Our own preference is for the first, viz. having the "Ethics" Committee serve as the formal hearing committee that makes recommendations directly to the President. We think this is most in keeping with the spirit of the policy and has a number of administrative advantages, in particular, simplicity and the growth of experience. Yet, we also recognize that there are other ways of providing a fair-minded and competent body to make such recommendations to the President. Three alternative models are set out in the Policy. We would point out, though, that while having an all-faculty hearing committee (as mentioned in Model 1) might win more support from faculty members, it might well be perceived by both staff members and students as being inherently unfair.

The Committee wishes to recommend to the President that this report and the accompanying draft policy be circulated widely for comment by interested faculty and staff members and students, as well as by University administrators and the University solicitors.
The Committee would also recommend that supporting documentation which is in the public realm, including policies of other universities, handbooks, etc. used by this Committee in drafting its report be available to members of the University in the Office of the Secretariat, Needles Hall.

February 1, 1982

Michael McDonald, Chairman -- faculty member (Philosophy)

Jean Horne -- graduate student (History)

Angus Kerr-Lawson -- faculty member (Pure Mathematics)

Jim Reardon -- graduate student (Engineering)

Bernie Roehl -- undergraduate student (Science)

Pat Robertson -- staff member (Director of Academic Services)

Nancy Smale -- staff member (Counsellor, Environmental Studies)

Policy 33 text | Appendix A | Minority Report



March 1996

Maintained by [email protected]


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