Racism is as deadly as the pandemic. Queen’s Student Code of Conduct should reflect that.

Queen's Student Code of Conduct
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The University is using the Student Code of Conduct to punish off-campus public health violations, claiming it applies because they threaten university operations. Yet this so-called loophole hasn’t been used to address off-campus acts of racism—a notable double standard that shows Queen’s administration cares more about public image than student safety.

When the infamous racist costume party occurred over four years ago, the University claimed the Student Code of Conduct didn’t apply to unsanctioned, off-campus events. In light of recent public health violations by students, Queen’s has reversed course, claiming a loophole in the Code applies to off-campus events such as the student partying that’s partially driven the uptick in Kingston’s cases in weeks past.

Queen’s has shown the Student Code of Conduct is more about protecting the University’s image than keeping students safe; it’s willing to pander to town-gown pressure and discipline students for breaking public health violations, but unwilling to listen to the racialized students who have been asking for the Code to support them for years. If Queen’s truly cared about student safety, the University would’ve acknowledged the threat of racism—and applied this so-called loophole—a long time ago.

There’s no denying that student parties during the pandemic put the community and other students at risk, but racism is just as deadly as the pandemic. Racist acts don’t just make students feel unsafe on campus but have the potential to escalate into physical violence.

Many campus services have had to shut down due to student outbreaks in Kingston. But the monetary threat of a shuttered campus pales in comparison to the threat of racism to student safety. The University must acknowledge that.

Principal Patrick Deane assured the Queen’s community at Senate that the Student Code of Conduct would be amended to include a definition of racism. The addition was first proposed by Undergraduate Trustee Shoshannah Bennett-Dwara, who’s been working on it since fall.

This addition is long overdue. Racialized students have been calling for this for years.

Implementing an actual definition of racism in the Code of Conduct will make it easier to hold students and staff accountable for their actions. Reprimanding those who violate the Code would be more effective than other means of addressing racism on campus, like mandatory courses on anti-racism; while these courses are valuable, making them mandatory means even students who experience racism daily are subjected to the material.

Overall, transparency is key. The University must be more vocal about what constitutes a Code of Conduct infraction and how students will be reprimanded. In terms of public health violations, Principal Deane confirmed students had been evicted from residence, but his statement lacked thorough information about what these students did to be removed. When The Journal inquired how students hosting and attending parties this year are being penalized, the University declined to comment. Being more transparent about these situations would serve as an example to other students, incentivizing them to avoid similar infractions.

When the Code of Conduct is finally amended to include racism, the University must emphasize just how serious it is about holding students accountable, whether their actions occur on-campus or elsewhere. Racialized students have felt unsafe on campus for too long; it’s about time Queen’s did something concrete to change that.

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