{Published by the University of Waterloo administration on its website until 1998, during the period when the policy 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.)


Policy 33

Number: 33
Effective Date: June 5, 1990
Cancels: December 12, 1984




I.GENERAL PRINCIPLES The University is an autonomous community which exists in order to further "the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and understanding through teaching and research" Policy 53, IV, Purposes of Tenure.). The University aims to create an environment of tolerance and respect and believes that the right of individuals to advance their views openly must be upheld throughout the University. The realization of these intentions requires respect for the following general principles:

A. That each member of the University endeavour to contribute to the existence of a just and supportive community based on equality and respect for individual differences.

B. That the University support academic freedom. Here, the term "academic" refers not to the persons involved but to the nature of what they are free to do. "Academic freedom" means the freedom to study, teach, publish and debate, independent of current opinion, subject to commonly accepted scholarly standards. The right to academic freedom carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a responsible and ethical way (Ref: Policy 53, September 1976, II.C.3.a.).

Members of the academic community are responsible and individually accountable for their actions, findings and statements. In protecting academic freedom, the University is not assuming that responsibility which is properly the responsibility of its members.

C. That no member of the University community (faculty, staff, student) unduly interfere with the study, work or working environment of other members of the University (cf. "Report of the Senate Committee on Academic Regulations and Discipline:eq., April 1981, III.8.). This shall be taken to apply to the campus of the University and official off-campus functions of the University, such as course- or program-related field trips.

D. That services, benefits, opportunities, and facilities offered by the University be compatible with the purposes of the institution and be provided to all persons in the University community with the relevant qualifications. Thus, such provisions shall not be denied wholly or partly on irrelevant grounds such as personal and physical characteristics or beliefs (cf. Bill 7 :q.An Act to Revise and Extend Protection of Human Rights in Ontario:eq., 1981, Part I.2. and the Charter of Rights, Section II.B).

E. That those with academic or employment supervisory authority use such authority, both on campus and off, solely for the purposes explicitly stated or implied in University policies and with regard to the overall aims and purposes of the University. Such supervisory authority shall be taken to include both permanent and temporary academic or employment supervision of any faculty or staff member or student, whether such supervision is set out in the University of Waterloo Act or University policies or implied therein, including all delegated supervisory authority. Academic supervisors include faculty members, designated staff members, and students appointed as Teaching Assistants.

Note: In this principle, two kinds of supervision are considered, viz. academic and employment, and three groups of people, viz. faculty, staff, and students.

F. That general principles stated in UW policies other than Policy 33, but which have a bearing on aspects of Policy 33, be considered as part of Section I. (see Appendix C for a list of ethics-related statements).

II. SPECIFIC PRINCIPLES The University of Waterloo desires to create a work environment which supports, nurtures, and rewards its members on the basis of such relevant factors as work performance and achievement. Sexual harassment, discrimination, and the abuse of supervisory authority, for example, are inimical to this environment. Without limiting the generality of Section I. above, the following actions or practices shall be taken as violations. The actual determination of any violation of this Policy can be made only in the context of a particular case, in accord with fair procedures (as set out in Section IV.).

A. Sexual Harassment

Conduct constitutes sexual harassment when:

Attention, including verbal harassment, of a sexual nature is objectionable;

Acceptance of sexual advances is a condition of education or employment;

Rejection of sexual advances affects grades or performance evaluation or any academic or personnel decision that concerns the recipient;

Unwelcome sexual advances interfere with the recipient's work or create an offensive, intimidating or hostile employment or academic environment.
B. Discrimination

Discrimination is any action which denies or has the effect of denying any services, benefits, opportunities, and/or facilities provided by the University on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, creed, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, family status, handicap or medical condition. (cf. Bill 7 "An Act to Revise and Extend Protection of Human Rights in Ontario", 1981, Part I.2. and the "Charter of Rights", Section II.B.)

Discrimination includes any act of communication whether oral, written, electronic or non-verbal, and which lacks any redeeming artistic, intellectual or literary merit and which promotes disrespect or intolerance for any person(s) based on the parameters of item II.B.1. above.

C. Abuse of Supervisory Authority

Abuse of supervisory authority includes all forms of making conditional or appearing to make conditional academic, employment, or other services, benefits, opportunities, or facilities upon performance unrelated or irrelevant to the academic or employment status of the one supervised. Such abuse can occur even if it does not have the intention or effect of benefitting the supervisor in question. Furthermore, persons with such supervisory authority who have or are likely to have under their supervision persons in their immediate family (Ref: UW Policy 62) or persons with whom they have such relationships as are likely to create a conflict-of-interest situation are strongly advised either to relinquish the academic or employment supervision of the person in question or to seek permission (e.g., of department head/chair, Dean) to continue in that capacity, with appropriate safeguards.


The aim of this Policy is to implement Sections I. and II. above by providing access to appropriate remedies for those injured by violation of the principles stated. While this Policy is designed especially for those who believe themselves injured (by violation of the Policy) and who seek redress, 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 as set out in this and other University policies and procedures (including Policies 11, 18, 36, 53, 63, and the Academic Regulations & Student Discipline policy approved by Senate).

Anyone injured by violation of a principle stated in Sections I or II above is urged to contact any of the following parties for information, advice, help or counselling. All parties aim to facilitate remedies both informally and confidentially. Every person in the University community has a right to institute and participate in proceedings under this Policy without reprisal or threat of reprisal for so doing.

A. The Ethics Committee

Individual members of the Ethics Committee can be approached informally for advice and informal dispute settlement (see Section IV.C). Any formal complaints are submitted to the Chair of the Ethics Committee (see Section IV. D).

B. Some Alternative Resources

the Sexual Harassment Advisor, available through the Health and Safety Office, provides information and advice to members of the University community in matters pertaining to sexual harassment.

the Ombudsman, located in the Campus Centre, specializes in campus mediation.

the Personnel Department

Faculty Association and the Staff Association (Members' Advisory Committee)

the Faculty Grievance procedure (refer to Policy 63), the Committee of Inquiry on Staff Grievances (refer to Policy 36), and the Student Appeal Policy & Procedures are available to faculty, staff and student members, respectively.


A. Terms of Reference

The Committee is to be advisory to the Vice-President, Academic & Provost, and is:

To advise the Vice-President, Academic & Provost, on the implementation of the principles stated in Sections I and II.

To deal with specific complaints arising under these principles.

To make the provisions of this Policy generally known to all segments of the University community.

To make recommendations to the Vice-President, Academic & Provost for the revision of this Policy.

To report formally to the Vice-President, Academic & Provost at least once a year.

To participate in an annual training/discussion session with other members of the University community (e.g., Sexual Harassment Advisor, Ombudsman, Faculty Grievance Panel, Personnel Department) to exchange information on roles, areas of jurisdiction, etc. These sessions, preferably, will be held directly upon the appointment of new members.
The Vice-President, Academic & Provost will make available to the Committee, or cause to be made available, such facilities and information as is necessary for it to carry out its duties.

B. Membership

The Committee shall consist of six members -- one undergraduate student, one graduate student, two faculty members, two staff members -- appointed for overlapping two-year terms by the Vice-President, Academic & Provost, in consultation with the appropriate constituency. The Vice-President, Academic & Provost shall also determine who shall chair the Ethics Committee.

C. Advice and Informal Dispute Settlement

Individual members of the Ethics Committee will be readily available to members of the University community to offer information and advice on the inplementations and interpretation of this Policy. In particular, Committee members shall be available to advise individuals on the application of this Policy to specific situations, and will attempt to resolve, informally, complaints arising under this Policy, including, for example, problems that may have arisen due to innocent misunderstanding or misinterpretation. The Committee member shall advise individuals concerning jurisdiction (e.g., alternative means of resolving complaints through, for example, administrative action or other appeal procedures as outlined in III.B. above). Jurisdiction may be determined, in confidence, in consultation with other members of the Ethics Committee and/or with the Chair of another appropriate existing University body (e.g., Faculty Grievance Panel).

Whenever possible, Committee members shall make every reasonable effort to resolve the matter informally. While individual Committee members shall attempt in good faith to mediate complaints brought to it on an informal basis, they reserve the right to end such attempts at mediation if, after a reasonable amount of time has been invested, it is clear that the complaint is frivolous, that informal resolution is, in the Committee member's view, inappropriate, or if one or more of the principals involved refuses such resolution. The matter shall proceed to formal resolution (see D. below).

It is to be the practice of Committee members to proceed discreetly with due attention to the sensitivity of the matters brought to its notice.

D. Initiation of Formal Disputes

Formal Complaints
To initiate formal procedures under this Policy, complaints must be submitted in writing to the Chair of the Committee, within a reasonable time period, stating the alleged violation(s) of this Policy and setting out the remedy sought and, where possible, name the person or persons (if any) alleged to have caused the violation for which the remedy is sought. The complaint must be signed and dated.

It is understood that if a grievor undertakes legal action in a case while the case is before the hearing committee, the committee will suspend action.

Any person or persons named as having caused the violation for which remedy is sought must be promptly (within one week) sent a copy of the complaint with an indication of the date on which the hearing committee will hold a preliminary meeting (see 4, below). The complainant shall also be informed of this date.

Hearing Committee
The Ethics Committee will meet as a three-person hearing committee to hear the formal complaint.

Note: Anyone on the hearing committee who is a party or witness to the complaint at hand is disqualified. In the event of such disqualification, the Vice-President, Academic & Provost shall replace the member(s) of the Committee with a suitable individual(s).

Note: Should the Ethics Committee encounter an unworkably heavy caseload, due to simultaneous or overlapping formal hearings, additional persons (preferably past members of the Committee) may be appointed by the Provost at the Committee's request, to serve as an additional ad hoc hearing committee. Such additional persons shall attend a briefing session with the Committee members in preparation for their undertaking.

Preliminary Meeting and Procedure
Within one week of the receipt of a formal complaint the hearing committee shall meet to confirm jurisdiction. Within 14 days, but not necessarily in conjunction with the jurisdictional meeting, the committee shall hold a meeting with the principal parties (viz. the complainant and anyone named in the complaint as having violated this Policy) to review the complaint, exchange evidence and supporting documentation. The Committee will determine, in consultation with the parties, the procedure(s) to be followed or subsequent meetings. With due attention to confidentiality, such procedures shall follow principles of natural justice.

a. All the principals to the complaint may, if they wish, be accompanied by another member of the University community to act as an advisor or representative.

b. No principal may be denied access to relevant evidence. The hearing committee may choose to allow all the principal parties to be present throughout.

c. No principal party may be denied an opportunity to present evidence and argument. An adequate opportunity must also be provided for the rebuttal of contrary evidence and argument.

d. The hearing committee shall determine whatever other procedures are necessary to ensure both fairness and good order.

Formal Report to the Vice-President, Academic & Provost
After having conducted a hearing according to the procedures indicated above, the hearing committee shall prepare a formal report for the Vice-President, Academic & Provost. The Committee shall:

a. Make a recommendation to the Vice-President, Academic & Provost for the appropriate disposition of the complaint, indicating the nature and relevant circumstances of the complaint, in what respects (if any) the principles set forth in this policy have been violated, and what remedies (if any) it recommends. The hearing committee may also recommend that the Vice-President, Academic & Provost initiate disciplinary procedures as set out in University policies and regulations; the Committee's report may then be adduced to evidence in such disciplinary procedures.

b. Simultaneously, forward a copy of its report to each of the principal parties.

The Vice-President, Academic & Provost is responsible for determining whether he/she accepts the recommendation, implementing that recommendation if the determination is positive, and informing the parties, in writing, within a week of the action taken.

Within three weeks of receipt of the report, a formal, written appeal may be made to the President, who, subsequently and as soon as possible, will meet with the (two) parties concerned. Within one week of the meeting(s), the President shall send a written reply to the appeal.

Copies of both the appeal and response will be forwarded to the hearing committee, in confidence, for information.

Approved by Senate
in two readings:

April 16, 1990
May 22, 1990

Approved by the Board of Governors
June 5, 1990


| Appendix A | Minority Report | Appendix B |


Home Page Policies
Main Index

Last updated: March, 1996.
Maintained by cledbury@secretariat.uwaterloo.ca