Not being taken for a ride
By Kevin Gale
London cabbies want to put an end to violence against them and their property by students with the help of Western.
A group of five anonymous cab drivers who call themselves the London Drivers' Conference, submitted a document to the current City of London taxicab driver safety task force at a Feb. 28 meeting.
The report, entitled "From the Driver's Seat," outlines policies the group would like to see implemented to protect cab drivers from abuse while on duty.
One of the recommendations is a joint effort between the university's administration, the University Police Department and the London Police Force to curb violence, property and vehicular damage caused by drunken university students.
A policy would see the university take an active role in holding students accountable for their off-campus behaviour, similar to the way the military has extra-territorial jurisdiction over its personnel.
Chris Muldoon, task force member and Aboutown driver, said cab drivers are simply looking to maintain their dignity and get respect from students. "The campus can't ignore how it cuts across communities," he said.
Muldoon said he has experienced abuse against his cab by students recently, causing damage. "They hurled beer bottles at the cab thinking it was a sport," he said, adding incidents off campus occur more frequently than on campus.
He added damage to the cars may come at the expense of a driver if they own the car.
Insp. Bob Earle of the UPD said his department regularly works with the LPF on investigations, but off-campus incidents are out of their jurisdiction.
Drawing a parallel to the military does not work because the military is given its power by special government legislation under the National Defense Act, Earle said, adding criminal matters are adequately dealt with by the Criminal Code.
Earle said five cab-related incidents occur on campus a year, none of which have involved any physical contact between students and a driver.
However, something should be done to orient students on their civil obligations, Western's associate VP-academic, Roma Harris, said. "The university is an integral part of the community."
She added the administration has no legal jurisdiction over students behaviour when they aren't on campus.
Scott Graham, University Students' Council municipal affairs commissioner, agreed. "If they are on campus it is up to the university but off campus they are citizens of London and should be treated like everyone else."
Graham added the problems result from alcohol and an alternative is to educate students about being responsible when drinking.
Western is currently composing a code of conduct expected to be ready by next fall. However, it does not currently deal with matters that are not academic, said Brian Timney, chair of the vice-provost's committee on student code of conduct. "Committee members didn't want to deal with it," he said. "We're not there to look after students every minute of the day."