Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour

Established: May 19, 1982

​Last Updated: June 30 , 2010

Class: FS

1. General principles

The University is an autonomous community which exists to further the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and understanding through scholarship and teaching. The University aims to ensure 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:

  • 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.
  • That the University of Waterloo is committed to providing an environment which supports and rewards its members on the basis of such relevant factors as work performance and achievement. Harassment, discrimination and the abuse of supervisory authority, for example, are inimical to this environment. Further, as required by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the University has a responsibility to provide an environment free from harassment and discrimination, and accordingly must deal effectively, quickly and fairly with any situation involving claims of harassment or discrimination that come to its attention.
  • That services, benefits, opportunities, and facilities offered by the University be compatible with its purposes 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 or prohibited grounds.

[Note: Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, a person has the right to equal treatment in a number of areas (i.e., services, goods and facilities, accommodation/housing, employment, contracts, membership in trade unions and vocational associations), free from discrimination based on the following prohibited grounds: race; ancestry; place of origin; colour; ethnic origin; citizenship; creed/religion; sex; sexual orientation; age; record of offences; marital status; same-sex partnership status; family status; receipt of public assistance; mental or physical handicap.] The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act prescribes accommodation for those with mental or physical handicaps.

  • That the University supports academic freedom for all members of the University community.  Academic freedom carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base teaching and research on an honest and ethical quest for knowledge.  In the context of this policy, ‘academic freedom’ refers to academic activities, including teaching and scholarship, as is articulated in the principles set out in the Memorandum of Agreement between the FAUW and the University of Waterloo, 1998 (Article 6).  The academic environment which fosters free debate may from time to time include the presentation or discussion of unpopular opinions or controversial material. Such material shall be dealt with as openly, respectfully and sensitively as possible.
  • 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 or any aspect of another’s University activity. This shall be taken to apply to the campus of the University and to official off-campus functions of the University, such as course- or program-related field trips and co-op employment.
  • That those with supervisory authority (academic or employment) 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.

2. Specific principles

Without limiting the generality of Section 1 above, the following shall be taken as violations of this policy, and may also be in contravention of the Ontario Human Rights Code:

  • Discrimination is defined as any action or behaviour that results in adverse or preferential treatment related to those grounds prohibited under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  • Harassment is defined as engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome.
  • Sexual Harassment includes comment or conduct where acceptance of sexual advances is a condition of education or employment, or where rejection of sexual advances negatively impacts decisions that concern the recipient (e.g., grades, performance evaluation or any academic or employment decisions) or where unwelcome sexual advances, comment, conduct or communications interfere with the recipient’s work or study.
  • A ‘poisoned environment’ (or one that is intimidating, hostile or offensive) can be created based on any of the prohibited grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and can be described as comment or conduct that is contrary to the aims of maintaining a supportive, respectful and tolerant environment.

And the following may be in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act:

  • Workplace Harassment is defined as engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome.

It is recognized that harassment is often context-dependent and that, while sexual harassment typically takes place in a situation of power differential between the persons involved, it may occur between peers.

3. Violations, redress

Members of the University community have the right to lodge complaints and to participate in proceedings without reprisal or threat of reprisal for so doing. Those with supervisory authority (academic or employment) are expected to be proactive in promoting respect for the general principles articulated in Section 1 and, with assistance and guidance from the Conflict Management and Human Rights Office (CMAHRO), are responsible for dealing with alleged violations of those principles. Such authority shall be taken to include permanent, temporary or delegated supervision of any faculty or staff member or student.

Those who receive complaints or who perceive what they believe to be violations of this policy shall act promptly to notify an appropriate administrative officer, normally one's immediate supervisor, the department Head, Chair or Director, to provide or initiate the appropriate remedial or disciplinary measures. If the complaint pertains to that individual, it should be directed to the next administrative level (Dean, Associate Provost, Vice-President). Those dealing with alleged violations of this policy shall be guided by principles of fairness and natural justice. Complaints that are found after investigation to be of a frivolous and/or vexatious nature will not be pursued.

Disciplinary measures resulting from alleged infringements of this policy may be appealed under the grievance processes for staff (Policy 36), students (Policies 70/71), faculty (Article 9 of the Memorandum of Agreement). Members of CUPE 793 should refer to Article 16 of their Collective Agreement.

Individuals who believe they have been treated in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code have the right to proceed directly to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. If taken, such a step does not relieve or alter UW's responsibility to take appropriate administrative action to address the alleged violation.

[Note: Complainants may find it helpful to consult the University Secretariat (Needles Hall) or refer to organization charts on its website  for assistance in identifying the immediate supervisor of a particular individual. Regarding courses taught at, or programs, facilities and residences administered by the Federated & Affiliated Colleges, faculty, staff and students should consult the individual designated by the appropriate College.]

4. Advice and support

Any member of the University community who has reason to believe that he/she has been treated in violation of a principle stated in this policy is urged to contact one of the primary on-campus resources identified below for information or advice.

Conflict Management and Human Rights Office

The CMAHRO serves as the focal point and primary resource to all members of the University community on matters involving ethical behaviour and human rights issues. That Office sponsors the University Conflict Resolution Support Program, comprised of the:

  • Resolution Support Program (RSP), which provides one-on-one support and advice by trained volunteers to those considering or initiating a complaint under UW policies;
  • Conflict Intervention Program (CIP), whose members work with parties to a dispute, in an attempt to mediate and resolve problems informally and as close to source as possible.

AccessAbility Services

The office has a mandate to ensure equitable opportunity for students with disabilities. In accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and in partnership with all university departments, the office promotes access to all programs, services, and facilities at the university.

University Police Services

In situations involving unwanted touching or aggressive and threatening behaviour, complainants are strongly advised to consider contacting UW Police Services (ext 22222 or 519-888-4911; Commissary), preferably at the outset.

person of responsibility (e.g., Head, Chair or Director) within one's own department or school.

Members of the University community may also wish to consult the organizations that represent their interests: the Faculty Association; the Staff Association; CUPE Local 793; the Federation of Students; the Graduate Student Association. A comprehensive list of on-campus resources, including contact names, locations and telephone numbers, is available from the University Secretariat and posted on the Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion website