Over 300 cases of malicious blue light activation have been recorded since September.
But unlike past years, Campus Security has directed the perpetrators of these false alarms to University administrators, not the AMS’s student-run discipline system.
According to student leaders, this change represents the University’s attempt to dismantle the current peer-led method of discipline.
Following a recommendation from Coroner Roger Skinner — who investigated the accidental deaths of two Queen’s students last year — administration has been reviewing the AMS’s Non-Academic Discipline (NAD) system.
Almost a year ago, Skinner presented University administrators with a report aimed at curbing the deemed drinking culture on campus, calling for a review of alcohol use in residences, security and the University’s alcohol policies.
He also recommended reform of NAD, writing, “Queen’s University should remove health and safety issues, including alcohol, from the jurisdiction of the peer/student judiciary.”
The NAD system is a completely student-operated judicial board which seeks to discipline and reform students who’ve violated the University’s Code of Conduct. It’s the only organization of its kind in Canada.
Judicial Affairs Director Alison Sproat, who’s responsible for running the NAD system, said her office started consulting with Student Affairs immediately after the Coroner’s report was published.
“Incidents involving the misuse of blue lights are incidents which fall within our jurisdiction and should be handled through the AMS NAD system,” she said.
Initial talks with then-Dean of Student Affairs John Pierce and former Provost Academic Bob Silverman were halted mid-summer when both administrators were replaced.
Ann Tierney took over as Dean of Student Affairs while Alan Harrison became Provost Academic. Sproat said the turnover posed challenges for Judicial Affairs’ negotiations with University representatives.
“Currently we have less institutional support from the administration for the AMS NAD system than we have had previously,” Sproat told the Journal via email. “The lack of support is shown by the fact that Student Affairs has handled a number of cases that would have traditionally been processed through the AMS system.”
Though the NAD system traditionally fields cases of blue light misuse, they’ve only processed one offense since administration took the reins last May.
“Student Affairs near the beginning of the summer identified this group of cases as those which they wanted to handle and subsequently directed Campus Security to send the vast majority of cases involving blue lights directly to Student Affairs,” Sproat said. “This was done without our knowledge.”
In October, Student Affairs struck a committee to review the current student-led discipline system. Sproat said the committee has put forward a proposal for restructuring the system next year, adding that it “does not at all resemble the current system we have.”
She said the AMS unilaterally agreed that NAD’s current system should remain as-is in the coming year.
While they’re open to feedback, Sproat said, AMS representatives won’t budge on two of NAD’s fundamental pillars: non-adversarial and peer-administered.
“These discussions have not concluded, but it seems as though the AMS and Student Affairs have clearly divergent interests and ideas regarding how the NAD system should be operated in the coming year,” Sproat said. Arig Girgrah, assistant dean of Student Affairs, sits on the Non-Academic Discipline Review Committee responsible for determining NAD’s future.
She said Queen’s Senate’s policy on Student Appeals, Rights and Discipline (SARD) grants the University power over NAD for cases deemed to be of a serious nature.
These include trespassing in construction zones and on rooftops, malicious emergency blue light activations and vandalism, she said.
“Last year, then-Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) communicated to all students reminding them that Queen’s takes very seriously any misconduct … and that his office would deal with serious violations of the Student Code of Conduct per the provisions in SARD,” Girgrah told the Journal via email.
“This year, the new Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) delegated his authority under the SARD policy to the Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs [Ann Tierney].”
Girgrah said the future of NAD is undecided.
“The Non-Academic Discipline Review is ongoing and a report will be delivered to the Provost once the work of the Committee is complete,” she said.
Kieran Slobodin, AMS vice-president of university affairs, sits on the Committee with Girgrah.
He said right now the group is looking at a reformed model of non-academic discipline that would keep some power with the student government, but transfer a portion to the University.
“In their view it’s a hybrid model,” Slobodin said. “In our view, it’s a complete removal of the fundamental value of student-run discipline.”
The hybrid model would classify disciplinary cases as major or minor. Those deemed minor will be handled by NAD, while the major cases are taken on by administration.
Slobodin said administration would strike a review board comprised of representatives from Residence Life, Athletics and faculty as well as delegates from the student body. He said faculty members are only consulted on cases in which violations take place in an academic setting, like a student drinking during class.
“The University views it more as changing student behaviour rather than educating students on what the Student Code of Conduct is and how we can uphold it,” he said.
Once the committee has drafted a full proposal for the future of NAD, it’ll be forwarded to the Provost’s Office before coming to a final decision at Senate.
Slobodin said talks will continue through the summer, but administration won’t be making a firm decision until students return in the fall.
“It’s not a decision that’s fully fleshed out yet,” he said, adding that Judicial Affairs was in consultation with Campus Security and Health, Counselling and Disability Services before the Coroner’s report was released.
“Are we unique in having completely student-run discipline? Yes,” Slobodin said. “And while the University will argue that best practice is not to have it, I’d argue it’s what makes our students leaders.
“It’s our willingness to hold each other accountable, to develop a system that holds ourselves to a higher standard. For us to have it being student-run shows us being leaders every step of the way.”
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