New ways to conduct yourself
By Kevin Gale
Big Brother Western will be watching student behaviour a little more closely next year.
A preliminary draft of Western's student code of conduct, released last week, is proposing the university gain jurisdiction over student behaviour both on and off-campus should it pose a "substantial risk of interference with the meaningful education of other students".
Behaviour this applies to includes stalking, sexual assault, tampering with another student's or the university's computer files and persistent disruption of classes by a student.
Penalties for offenders, to be handed out by Western's student court, include the transfer to another class when the offender and the victim are in the same class, the issuance of a trespass order or, ultimately, suspension from the school.
"The intention is that behaviour, no matter where it occurs, has a direct affect on a person's academic activity," said Brian Timney, chair of the senate committee designing the student code of conduct.
However, Insp. Bob Earle of the University Police Department questioned whether or not student court passing judgement on students accused by another student of offences such as stalking or sexual assault would conflict with any criminal proceedings.
Committee member and University Students' Council legal affairs officer Ron Kirschner said the two will not overlap because the student court is only dealing with the offence in terms of their danger to other students, not the offence itself. He added the situation is similar to a person engaged in a civil and criminal trial simultaneously.
Earle also said there is no guideline in the report stating exactly what constitutes a substantial risk.
The concept of substantial risk is open to interpretation by the student court, but the person who initiates the action must prove their education is in fact being impeded by the offending student, Kirschner said.
How the university would be made aware of criminal instances and identify the student, as the police do not give out the information, is a concern, Earle said.
Kirschner said the onus is on students to seek any action under the code against another student. "The code provides an expedited process of justice. It's faster than going through the criminal system," he said.
The inclusion of computer offences in the report is a proactive measure, Timney said. "It's a new potential area of vandalism," he said, adding it is rare students complain their essay files were destroyed by another student.
The proposed code will not affect how the police conduct its operations, who use the student court for minor offences against the university which are one-time instances, Earle said. "We will still proceed through the court system," he said.