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Mount Royal University faculty worry code of conduct will infringe on freedoms

Against the advice of faculty the Board of Governors passed a code of conduct with vague and troubling wording

Mount Royal University's new code of conduct has some profs worried of troubling implications.

Jennifer Friesen/ for Metro

Mount Royal University's new code of conduct has some profs worried of troubling implications.

The Mount Royal University's Board of Governors have approved a code of conduct which faculty are overwhelmingly against as it could have implications on their academic freedoms, according to the head of the faculty association.

MRU faculty association president Marc Schroeder cited vague wording around what constitutes a wrongdoing. Further, the code of conduct includes a clause requiring employees to exercise judgment in the best interest of the university.

According to Schroeder, the code requires faculty members to tattle on those they suspect may be behind the very wrongdoing it doesn't define. He added that faculty must be able to engage in research, discussion, and publications that may touch on any number of sensitive topics – even being critical of the university itself.

"We're deeply concerned that the Board approved that code of conduct at last night's meeting," he said.

The code applies to academic and non academic staff and has been in the works for a year. Faculty petitioned against an earlier draft of the code and received 244 signatures, and even voted recommending the school revise it at the General Faculties Council, but their concerns fell on deaf ears as the Board voted Monday in favour of passing the controversial policy.  

"When there's a potential that you could discipline someone based on a policy then that policy has to contain a clear and precise articulation of wrongdoing that isn't subject to arbitrary interpretation," Schroeder said.

Mount Royal University provided a brief statement on the process.

"We respect the consultative process and value the feedback we received from many groups, including faculty," wrote Mount Royal University President David Docherty in an email statement. "The process started more than a year ago and included five months of extensive consultation. Much of this feedback was inserted into a Code of Conduct outlining standards of professional behavior. It's now important to move ahead as part of complying with Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act and being accountable to all our stakeholders."

Schroeder said faculty aren't against a code of conduct, as many other universities have one and it's a requirement.

"We realize that under provincial legislation public agencies like universities and colleges are required to have a code of conduct, so we understand there's a legislative compliance reason why codes have to be developed," Schroeder said.

He commended the board for reworking some of the concerns brought up during the consultation process, but said problems have persisted and faculty remain concerned.

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