Residence rule offences rise

Citations up compared to last year

There were 73 more residence citations during the Fall 2012 than in the Fall 2011 semester. Next year’s ResSoc has no plans to hire more dons in response.
Image by: Tiffany Lam
There were 73 more residence citations during the Fall 2012 than in the Fall 2011 semester. Next year’s ResSoc has no plans to hire more dons in response.

residence citations, and admin and residents’ councils are unsure as to why.

Last semester, there were 73 more offences than the same period the year before. Between September and December 2012, there were 1,659 citations, compared to to 1,586 in Fall 2011.

“We’ve been trying to analyze this ourselves, but from year-to-year it’s hard to determine why it happens,” said Main Campus Residents’ Council (MCRC) President Tuba Chishti, adding that the newly formed Residents’ Society (ResSoc) has no plans to hire new dons next year in response to these rates.

Residence citations refer to documented cases of rule violations where the student respondent has been found responsible.

“If you look at the numbers themselves, they look like they’re rising on all levels,” said Arig Girgrah, assistant dean of student affairs.

Although there’s no clear explanation for the rise in numbers, Girgrah said the change could be due to shift in enrolment. This year, there was an additional 150 to 200 students in residence.

“You’re going to have more students, so it makes sense that you’re going to have more incidents,” she said.

Girgrah doesn’t believe the change in incidents is cause for alarm.

The biggest jump in numbers occurred between 2010 and 2011, when the administration took a stricter approach to rule violations, particularly those related to alcohol.

In the fall of 2011, incidents spiked from about 1,100 to 1,600. 2011 was the first time alcohol was completely banned in residence during the Frosh Week, a rule that’s been in place since. Some of the greatest increases were seen in level one offences, which include several alcohol violations.

“The greater diligence on our part obviously resulted in more documentation,” Girgrah said. “Those are the kinds of things we have to be analytical around.” Offence levels are assigned on a scale of one to three and are determined by the Senate Residence Committee and its Discipline Working Group. The committee consists of a mix of staff, students and faculty.

“[The committee will] look at a number of issues, but particularly … the processes and procedures around our judicial system,” Girgrah said. “They will talk about things like: are the levels categorized correctly? Do we have the right kinds of sanctions?” Level one and two offences are dealt with by the residents’ councils and their own non-academic discipline systems, while level three offences are handled by the administration.

Level one includes offences related to open and underage alcohol use. Violations such as theft are classified as level two, while serious incidents like drug trafficking fall under the level three classification.

Last semester, the most common citation was for “inappropriate behaviour.” According to the ResRules handbook, this means conduct that is “unacceptable, unwanted, harmful or offensive.” The most common level two offence was possession of excessive quantity of alcohol or mass consumption ­— participating in drinking games or getting caught with more than the quantity of alcohol permitted in residence.

The process of documentation typically starts at the don level. Dons are responsible for tracking what they hear and see in the residences while they are on-call.

“At any point there’s documentation, I’d say the discipline system is invoked,” Girgrah said.

Current residence dons have been instructed by Residence Life to refrain from commenting on the matter.

First-year student Amanda Little said she has a good relationship with the dons on her own floor, but others have been less forgiving to her and her friends.

“I’ve been written up maybe two times for being in a room with alcohol. It wasn’t my room,” she said. “There’s not a lot of leeway in terms of trying to explain the situation, they just write down what they see.”

Little, ArtSci ’16, is 19, but she said dons often assume she’s underage. She finds that residence facilitators, who she meets with after being written up, are often more reasonable than dons.

“I think some dons need to ask specific questions instead of jumping to specific conclusions,“ she said.

Andrew Green, ArtSci ’11, was was a don last year in Leonard Hall. He said the most common violations in his experience were related to alcohol and noise.

“You go knock on the door if there’s still noise going on and you essentially address the situation,” Green said. “You deal with it. But essentially your main job is to record objectively.”

Dons enter information on incidents into an online portal and document the names of students involved. This is then sent to the Residence Life Coordinator, who can choose to send it to a Residence Facilitator to pursue disciplinary action.

Green said he took a different approach to discipline than most other dons.

“The objective of a don is to make [residence] a safe, reasonable place where you can study and live a normal life and feel included. Those were my priorities,” he said.

“I’d rather see you invite the other underage student who’s been a little shy to join the group … I’d rather see you offer him a beer and include him.”

When he did let an incident slide, he did so because he believed it was reasonable. In his opinion, this approach fostered a more inclusive community. He felt his floor had a better group dynamic and could approach both him and one another should any problem arise.

“It got me in trouble sometimes with my supervisors but … the other dons had much fewer problems with my residents because of the relationship I feel I had with them on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Green believes that oftentimes, the right people aren’t always hired to be a don.

“I don’t think the people who would be best at donning apply because of maybe the experience they had with their don,” he said.

He also believes that Residence Life tends to employ those who are likely to enforce the rules by the book, as they’re a less risky hire. “I think a lot more people who are great at being Gaels and FRECs, — student leaders like that — those people should apply more.”

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