For the 57 per cent

President of MCRC counters critiques of residence rules

People don’t fully understand what the ResRules do for the building of a community.
People don’t fully understand what the ResRules do for the building of a community.

Tuba Chishti, ArtSci ’14

When I was in first year, I was documented for having a screaming contest on my floor with two other friends. I did it because our floor was too quiet and I know it sounds silly now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Three years later, I am still living happily in residence partly because of the rules — not in spite of them.

Lately, the campus community turns its attention to residences only to examine the ResRules. Questions focus on quantitative aspects of the system and miss the opportunity to think about the bigger picture of why this system exists. More than 90 per cent of first-years (nearly 4,000 students) choose to live in residence. Although each Queen’s student has a unique experience, most of us share a common “residence experience.” This is shaped by what the individuals in that community bring and expect from others, and it’s also strongly influenced by the upper year students who choose the rewarding but challenging jobs of helping new students through a huge transition phase.

They are the go-to people who support students’ health, wellness and success through the ups and downs of being in first year. ResRules are an integral part of that.

My residence experience has been the best part of my time at Queen’s and that’s why I care so much about this. The ResRules are designed to educate residents on their responsibilities, the consequences of their actions and to allow residence to be a community that values mutual respect of each others’ rights, wellbeing and academic pursuits. Fundamentally, that experience is what the ResRules exist for.

I don’t think enough Queen’s students understand why and how the system exists.

Main Campus Residents’ Council and Jean Royce Hall Council work with Residence Life (ResLife) to administer the ResRules in a fair and consistent manner. The Discipline Working Group (DGW), a subcommittee of Senate, is composed of representatives from these groups. The DWG regularly reviews ResRules and the student conduct system in residence.

For the conduct system, Dons, hired by ResLife, interact primarily by documenting any situations they observe which may violate the ResRules. Residence Facilitators, hired by the Residence Councils, investigate Level 1 and Level 2 alleged violations of the ResRules — things like noise complaints, illegal entry, drinking games and many more They find responsibility and assign sanctions from a range of available educational, progressive and, where appropriate, restorative sanctions. Appeals are made to the Residence Conduct Board made up of upper year students while Level 3 ResRules infractions, for things like violence, possession of weapons, etc are dealt with by Residence Life administration.

There’s also a misconception of how many infractions really take place. 57 per cent of residents never come into contact with the conduct system and of the 43 per cent who do, 51 per cent of them only do so once. In 2011-12, there were 2,402 ResRules violations (1,692 Level 1, 618 Level 2 and 92 Level 3). From 2007-11, since the double cohort, ResRules violations ranged from 1,800 to 2,000 incidents a year, with Level 1 violations representing the vast majority of violations. Reasons for changes in numbers should be considered thoughtfully as there are numerous factors at play, including: more students in residences, fewer upper-years in the mix, changes to ResRules violations and changes in social behaviours of post-secondary students.

Beyond the numbers, it’s important to remember why the ResRules exist. They are here to teach the 17-year-old girl I once was what community means and how important it is to respect everyone within it. Living closely together, as we do in residence, means that we get to form connections when we really need to make friends. It also means that when I blast my music at night, my floor mates not only get to judge my love for One Direction and Taylor Swift, but they are also not able to sleep, study or enjoy their own personal space.

The students who work in residence are some of the greatest people I’ve met during my time at Queen’s. ResLife employs 118 Residence Dons, a diverse group of students who provide peer helping, organize educational and community-building programs, and apply the community standards (ResRules).

The Residence Societies employ approximately 50 student leaders as Executives, House Presidents and Residence Facilitators. The Societies are responsible for representing residents’ concerns, providing a wide range of entertainment services, organizing events, developing new leaders and playing an important role in upholding community standards through the ResRules.

Next time you think of the residence conduct system, remember that ResRules are part of a larger effort by committed and caring upper-years who work to create respectful and inclusive communities for all residents.

As for the next time you think of residence, I encourage you to think about the wonderful student staff who have always reminded me why we place so much trust in students at Queen’s. Think about a community that does its best to foster positive relationships for and between residents, and about the practices built into our residences that allow so many of us to proudly call it home.

Tuba Chishti is the President and CEO of the Main Campus Residents’ Council.

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