AMS reaffirms JComm commitment

In the wake of Homecoming weekend, student-run non-academic discipline has come under increased scrutiny.

On Monday, the University met with student representatives to discuss its desire to allow the cases of students who breach the Queen’s Code of Conduct to be transferred to the University Student Appeal Board (USAB) without Judicial Committee (JComm) investigation.

“[The administration] wanted to interpret senate policy that allowed them to bypass JComm,” AMS President Ethan Rabidoux said.

Rabidoux said the unlawful behaviour of some people who attended the unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party Saturday night caused the University to express concern about how quickly perpetrators would be disciplined.

In response, student representatives met for an emergency AMS Assembly meeting Tuesday evening to reaffirm AMS support for the system.

Rabidoux explained to Assembly that the University wanted to bypass JComm to expedite the cases.

“We said no, that we could not agree to this,” he said of a meeting on Monday that included himself, Rector Grant Bishop, SGPS President Dave Thomas, Principal Karen Hitchcock, Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane and interim Dean of Student Affairs Janice Deakin.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Assembly passed a motion to enshrine its support for JComm: “That AMS Assembly reaffirm its commitment to student-run non-academic discipline in dealing with the recent events of Homecoming 2005 ... .”

The motion was moved by AMS President Ethan Rabidoux and seconded by Shiva Mayer, AMS VP (university affairs).

Rabidoux said the motion is important because it keeps the disciplinary process under student control and maintain student faith in the system.

The peer-administered discipline system—likely unique to North American universities according to the AMS—prosecutes breaches of the Queen’s Code of Conduct found within the AMS constitution.

Any student enrolled in the University is supposed to abide by the code, on or off campus. Breaches of the contract by undergraduate students may be ruled upon by JComm, which ultimately gets its power from the University Senate.

The system is driven by incident reports forwarded by Student Constables or Campus Security.

“Basically, in [the University’s] opinion, there is going to be an increase in suspensions and expulsions that will be needed,” Rabidoux said. “JComm can only recommend people for suspension or expulsion to USAB.

“At the AMS, we consider this due process and the [administration], after such an event [as transpired Saturday], consider this to be a little too time consuming.”

Rabidoux said JComm holds the same disciplinary authority it did before last weekend. Since Monday’s meeting with the administrators, however, the Chief Prosecutor has been permitted to forward cases “with explosive elements” to USAB without a traditional investigation.

“Currently, JComm can send a case to USAB with a recommendation of expulsion or suspension, but now, [JComm can also] transfer a case to USAB from day one,” Rabidoux said.

He also said it’s up to the chief prosecutor to request that certain cases be transferred to USAB, but JComm can agree or disagree with this request.

Rabidoux said if the committee agrees, the case will go to USAB . If they disagree, the case will return to the Prosecutor’s Office to continue with normal procedures.

Rabidoux added that if a case is transferred to USAB without an investigation by JComm, the individual in question is not presumed guilty.

“[The person] has no attached inclination or belief that [they] are guilty or not.”

Mayer said the committee’s caseload will soon increase because of the Aberdeen Street events, and the Prosecutor’s Office has hired two more deputy prosecutors to handle the extra volume.

“On average, 30 cases are facing the committee at this time in the year,” he said. “We have reports of 20 cases in the immediate future that relate to Homecoming.”

Hitchcock said the University would not tolerate lawless and dangerous student behaviour.

“We will, as an institution, with appropriate institutional processes, investigate and use a range of sanctions which include suspension and dismissal,” she told the Journal.

Hitchcock appointed Deane to oversee the disciplinary process to ensure the internal discipline procedure is accelerated. Deane said he supports the move by the AMS to reaffirm its commitment to non-academic discipline.

“I was very proud of the students for that resolution. I was especially gratified that they identified that there are maybe some cases so severe that almost immediate referral to the USAB would be appropriate.” he said.

“The University policy on non-academic misconduct is a good policy and contains within itself all the measure that should be necessary to deal with students guilty of misbehaving ... and I applaud the motion [by the AMS].”

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