Discipline system under review

AMS releases draft report to Senate

Before friends of Jordan Morelli, Comm ’06, were contacted by the AMS Judicial Committee to face alleged breaches of the Queen’s Code of Conduct, none of them had any idea students could be prosecuted for something they’d done off campus.

Morelli said his friends were surprised to learn that it was other students—not professors or the principal—who would be investigating their cases.

“To be totally honest, I had no idea how it worked,” Morelli said. “One friend did feel the system should be run by the University … [Since] it was student-run, they felt it was more unprofessional and the students really didn’t know what they were doing.”

As Morelli did his own research into the system, he said his views changed.

“I think if improvements can be made … using the knowledge base of Queen’s to increase the knowledge and professionalism of the prosecutors, it would give more legitimacy to the system,” he said.

Morelli, who is also the upper-year Commerce Society representative to the AMS, is now one of 10 members of an AMS-led committee reviewing student-run non-academic discipline.

“We are students, we understand students, and although we must punish students at times, we don’t want to destroy their future,” he said, explaining why he feels the system is important.

Committee chair Ethan Rabidoux, AMS president, presented the committee’s preliminary report—containing a rough overview of expected recommendations for changes to non-academic discipline—to the University Senate yesterday.

“We want a strong system that is fair to students, that is effective, and that does not break down when put under political pressure,” Rabidoux told the Journal. “At the end of the day, the system will remain student-run. Part of this exercise is to show we’re not averse to criticism of the system. We want to make it strong, the best it can be and something Queen’s can be proud of.”

The AMS and SGPS are conducting separate reviews of their respective discipline systems under a recommendation of the Principal’s Task Force on Community Relations. The Task Force was created last fall in response to growing tensions in the community arising from student behaviour off-campus, particularly this and last year’s unsanctioned Aberdeen Street parties, which took place during Homecoming weekend.

“[The review] is a piece of the puzzle, but only one piece,” committee member Sue Miklas, a retired member of the Queen’s Faculty of Law and member of the Board of Trustees, told the Journal. “Also, for anyone to expect any system of student-run non-academic discipline to completely, on a stand-alone basis, solve the issues that have arisen this fall is both unrealistic and unfair to the discipline system to solve alone.

“It needs a concerted effort by the entire University community and administration.”

The following are key recommendations made in the preliminary report:

•Modernize the AMS Constitution concerning non-academic discipline, including removing ambiguity, explicitly defining non-academic discipline to be fair and transparent and removing provisions that could lead to bias

•Make changes to nature and role of the Prosecutor’s Office

•Create a new mediator role to help settle disputes between parties in an ongoing relationship (e.g. off-campus noise complaints)

•Alter and make additions to the Queen’s Code of Conduct, establish congruence between Code and AMS Constitution, under which student infractions are actually defined

•Create a new training regimen for incoming prosecutors and JComm members, drawing on resources from the Faculty of Law and the University Dispute Resolution Officer

•Produce a widely-distributed user-friendly guide to non-academic discipline, which clearly sets out its parameters and jurisdiction

•Increase ties with external groups, such as Kingston Police, Sydenham Ward Tenants’ and Ratepayers Association and City Hall, to help facilitate the complaint-driven process

•Make formal procedures regarding the acceptance of the Code of Conduct more explicit, such as by requiring a signed copy from each student at enrolment or via a mandatory screen on QCARD

•Increase emphasis on non-academic discipline and Code of Conduct during Orientation Week and in residence

•Expand AMS housing seminars in residence to include information on non-academic discipline

Rabidoux said he hopes to present the final report to Senate in March.

“Our goal is that students understand [non-academic discipline] from the day they start—that here at Queen’s, students are responsible for the upkeep of the Code of Conduct,” he said. “It says that Queen’s trusts its students with the ability to moderate themselves.”

JComm Chair Steve Dickie, another member of the committee, said the system needs to be constantly changing to meet new goals and challenges.

“One of the new challenges it faces is being able to address off-campus behaviour,” he said. “We think it will go to help relations with the city if the non-academic discipline system is seen as being better able to handle the incidents that occur in the Ghetto.”

Rabidoux said the last time non-academic discipline was updated was in 1988. He said the system was reviewed and revised at that time in response to tensions between students and permanent residents that developed, in part, from large street parties that took place in the Ghetto during Homecoming weekends in the late 1980s.

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