Students raise Code of Conduct concerns

Draft document ‘vague,’ panel told

Panel member Harry Smith said last night’s meeting will help inform some University decisions on the Code of Conduct.
Panel member Harry Smith said last night’s meeting will help inform some University decisions on the Code of Conduct.
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Poor attendance at last night’s Town Hall meeting didn’t stop concerned students from asking questions about proposed changes to the Code of Conduct.

About 30 students were in attendance at the meeting, which was held in the Lower Ceilidh of the JDUC and organized by the Student Senators’ Caucus.

Most of the questions raised at the meeting dealt with the draft’s wording.

Jeff Warshafsky, AMS Judicial Committee chief prosecutor and ArtSci ’08, said he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the AMS but with personal concerns.

He said he was concerned about the vague wording in certain areas of the draft code.

He mentioned the Counselling/Education Sanction, which says, “an order that the student attend counselling or classes that relate to the commission of the offence in order to prevent future misconduct.”

Warshafsky asked the caucus about the nature of the counselling mentioned. He said he didn’t think JComm should be able to recommend students see a psychologist.

Harry Smith, a member of the Senate Committee On Non-Academic Discipline (SONAD) who sat on the panel at the meeting, said he agreed with Warshafsky’s concern.

“That shouldn’t be the place of JComm,” he said.

Morgan Vanek, MA ’08, raised concerns about the University’s involvement in non-academic discipline related to off-campus activities.

She was concerned with Rule 2, which states, “the University shall only pursue disciplinary action if the conduct occurred either on campus or if the conduct occurred off campus and had a rational and substantive connection to the mission, administration or reputation of the University.”

Vanek said the rule is too vague in that it fails to define what a “rational and substantive” connection is.

She also asked how the University would deal with students who were arrested off campus.

Smith said there needs to be a connection between the activity and the interests of the University before the University will become involved.

He said if a student shows that he or she is from Queen’s by wearing Queen’s clothing, for example, the student is trying to say that he or she speaks for Queen’s and the University will become involved because the situation could damage its reputation.

He also said a complaint can’t be made without necessary evidence of a student’s connection to Queen’s.

After the meeting, Vanek told the Journal she was frustrated with the response.

“They don’t seem to be saying what they’ll use as evidence,” she said.

Another concern for Vanek was Sanction 5 of the draft, which orders “the notation on a student’s transcript for a specified period of time that the student committed

an offence.” She asked whether a student who is charged with urinating on someone’s lawn will have the charge noted on his or her transcript.

Vanek said she doesn’t believe that, as students, JComm should have the power to decide what appears on other students’ transcripts.

Smith said issues regarding transcripts will be left up to Senate.

Vanek praised the AMS for hosting the Town Hall meeting and publicizing it.

“If it hadn’t gone through, it would make the process even less transparent,” she told the Journal.

Caitlin Adair, AMS internal affairs commissioner, said the AMS was also uncomfortable with a rule stating “students shall, as soon as it is reasonably possible, report misconduct … to the appropriate authority or remove themselves from situations where misconduct is occurring.”

Adair said the rule might foster bad morale amongst students if they reported each other’s misconduct to authorities.

“It’s likely that the AMS might vote against [the rule],” Adair said.

At the end of the meeting, Smith said feedback from the meeting will help inform some University decisions on the Code of Conduct.

“This will give a sense of where we need to go, and what the consensus is.”

Alexi White, AMS academic affairs commissioner, said he was disappointed with student attendance.

“I expected a higher turnout, which was too bad,” he said.

White said concerns have been raised about student awareness of the proposed changes, but there were e-mails about the meeting that students could have read.

The current Code of Conduct was last amended in 1991. The draft code, which outlines acceptable conduct to a greater degree, is twice the length of the current code.

Students will be allowed to submit opinions online to the Student Senate Caucus until Thursday. On Friday, the caucus will submit those concerns to SONAD, who will submit students’ concerns to Senate by Nov. 15. In February, Senate will vote on the proposed changes, which will be implemented in September 2008.

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