Volume 93, Issue 40

Wednesday, November 10, 1999


Editorial Board 1999-2000

Facing facts or saving face?

Editorial cartoon

Facing facts or saving face?

Let the investigation begin.

Early in October, in response to a continuing tradition of pranks perpetrated by engineering students, university administration, in conjunction with the faculty of engineering science, established an engineering science review team.

The team, which is slated to begin consulting confidentially with students today, was established in the wake of the suspension and eventual re-instatement of four engineering students for orientation week vandalism.

Administration admitted part of the problem at the root of such pranks is that engineering frosh are brought into a culture which may encourage such activity. Ideally, this three person committee will meet with students over the next few months and submit a list of recommendations to administration early next year.

While it's all well and good to take a step back and look at the larger picture every once in a while, the timing of this review team calls into question administration's motives. It would be unfortunate if this action was simply taken as a way to save face in light of administration's rather curious suspension reversal. It would be even more unfortunate if the committee was merely for show – something to point to and say, "The problem is being addressed."

There are very few constants at this university, but one of them seems to be that as long as there are engineers, there will be pranks. Even if the motives behind establishing such a committee are pure, are its goals realistic? Is change possible?

To answer no, is to abandon any hope of eradicating senseless vandalism from Western's campus. To answer yes, is to put faith in this committee to fairly investigate and make sound recommendations to administration on how to prevent it from happening again. In light of the fact any action taken against the engineers in the past has not put an end to these pranks, perhaps the committee does have merit.

Any new information about this "culture" can only be a good thing. Anything students can bring forward that will help open the lines of communication and promote understanding is a step in the right direction. But this should not be the only step.

New investigations and recommendations may help identify potential problems within the engineering culture, but at the same time, administration needs to hammer out a fair and consistent policy for responding to foolish pranks. Engineers and all students for that matter, must be aware that crime X will result in punishment Y and no amount of appeal will reverse punishment Y because it was written in stone ahead of time.

Time will tell whether or not this review team serves its purpose. The committee has nothing to lose – its volunteer nature makes its cost minimal – and a lot to gain. Backed by a meaningful system of retribution, progress might finally be made.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999