Code of conduct revised after 15 years

Clarification of senate policy intended to improve non-academic discipline system

Jeff Warshafsky, AMS chief prosecutor, says the new code will improve the system’s clarity.
Jeff Warshafsky, AMS chief prosecutor, says the new code will improve the system’s clarity.
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The student code of conduct just got longer. The Senate Committee on Non-Academic Discipline (SONAD) released the draft of a revised student Code of Conduct. The committee is accepting feedback from students and faculty.

“Although it’s more elaborate than the previous document, it’s not a change from what’s currently happening,” said Wendy Griesdorf, last year’s SONAD chair.

Griesdorf said the changes follow up on a recommendation of the Principal’s Task Force on Community Relations two years ago, suggesting the code of conduct be reviewed. She said the longer code—seven pages compared to the previous single-page document—lays out students’ rights and responsibilities in more detail.

“It’s an effort to harmonize all the protocol across the University.”

It also outlines the jurisdictions of the University and the student societies more clearly, Griesdorf said.

“Authority is delegated out to the AMS or the SGPS and the senate shall have regard for the AMS and the SGPS,” Griesdorf said. “But the AMS and the SGPS are accountable back to the senate to make sure they’re doing a procedurally sound job.”

The code mentions a provision, already part of the Senate Policy on Student Appeals, Rights and Discipline, allowing the vice-principal (academic) to take charge of non-academic discipline if he or she feels it necessary.

Harry Smith, director of dispute resolution mechanisms for SONAD, said this could happen in a situation where students’ safety was at risk.

“If a student were, for whatever reason, threatened by somebody, a threat was taken to be quite serious or if a student carried out some act that was violent, then that person based on that act might be prohibited [by the vice-principal (academic)] from coming on University property until that incident could be investigated.”

SONAD hired law student Melissa Seal last summer to conduct research on the codes of conduct used by schools across North America and as far away as Australia to determine what changes should be made to Queen’s policy. Griesdorf said Queen’s code of conduct was by far the shortest of all those reviewed.

“The draft matches many of the codes we looked at,” Griesdorf said “I think it will create stability. I think it will be a clearer, more transparent process for the students.”

Seal drew up a draft code of conduct and submitted it to SONAD, which refined it before publishing it for feedback, Smith said.

Senate is accepting feedback on the draft via e-mail. The deadline to submit comments is Oct. 1, and Smith said Senate will make a final decision in January or February.

The final version of the code of conduct would take effect in September 2008.

Smith said he expects the draft to change before being put in place.

“I’m not looking to any particular section to be omitted; I think a lot of what is there is very good, so it then becomes a question of refining for what the Queen’s community considers appropriate and what they would like to see in the document,” he said. “That will guide or determine whether portions are either refined or improved upon or just removed because they’re not seen as reflecting the values of the University.”

Smith said he hopes a clearly articulated set of rules and consequences will help prepare incoming Queen’s students.

“What we hope to achieve is to provide notice to students coming to Queen’s of what’s expected of them.”

AMS Judicial Committee Chief Prosecutor Jeff Warshafsky said the code of conduct will have major implications for both academic and non-academic discipline.

“Any time you clarify the system it’s beneficial,” he said, adding that the non-academic discipline system has changed significantly over the last year.

Warshafsky cited an increase in training as one of the most important changes.

All JComm members and the staff in the prosecutor’s office took part in a training day in April where they learned the non-academic discipline system’s basic operations. They will participate in a five-day training session during Frosh Week.

“The training will culminate in a newly implemented mock case and mock JComm hearing,” he said. “This will ensure that once the real cases begin the deputies and the Judicial Committee are ready to begin.”

Warshafsky said the AMS is designing software to allow the prosecutor’s office to keep track of case information.

“This will make the office much more organized and more capable of generating comprehensive and accurate report summaries for Senate and for the public.”

The addition in March of educational sanctions will contribute to the system’s goal of restorative justice, he said.

“These new sanctions will allow the AMS’s NAD system to respond to a wider range of violations with a maximally restorative approach.”

Warshafsky said he thinks the prosecutor’s office has addressed concerns raised last summer by seven deans who put forward a senate motion to have non-academic discipline taken out of students’ hands.

“The deans tabled the motion pending a further review of the system and then ultimately dropped the motion entirely,” he said in an e-mail to the Journal. “I suspect they would not have done this unless their concerns were completely and satisfactorily addressed.”

Bill Flanagan, dean of the Faculty of Law, said he’s confident the changes made this year have put student-administered non-academic discipline back on solid footing.

Flanagan was one of the deans who put forward a motion to senate last summer to have non-academic discipline placed under the administration’s jurisdiction.

He said the motion was made primarily to draw attention to concerns faculty members had about JComm’s operation. From his perspective, he said, the motion was a success.

“I think the motion had the effect of spurring some really good discussion,” he said.

“I think we’ve actually come a very long way.”

Flanagan said he thinks a clearer, more specific code of conduct will help make the administration of non-academic discipline run more smoothly for everyone involved.

He said the increased level of training JComm members and prosecutor’s office staff receive will contribute to the efficiency and the effectiveness of the system.

“I think one of my major concerns as dean of law was that I wanted a system that was fair and transparent,” he said. “If we are to retain a properly run discipline system, it’s very important that students are adequately trained and have proper professional support.”

—With files from Anna Mehler Paperny

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