Volume 94, Issue 34

Tuesday, October 31, 2000


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Left out in the code

Editorial Cartoon

Left out in the code

The long arm of the law at Western just got a little longer with the unveiling of the new Student Code of Conduct. The document opens up a whole new world of implications and considerations for every undergraduate student at Western.

Gaping holes in Western's disciplinary procedures were made glaringly apparent in the wake of last year's infamous O-Week engineering prank. When it was brought to light that three students were responsible for damaging university property, it seemed administration had no solid foothold on what exactly the perpetrators should have received by way of disciplinary action. When the students tabled a lawsuit, throwing a brighter spotlight of attention to the matter, administration was forced to back-track on its decision and the engineers were allowed back into school.

So, here we are, another year later, a little older and wiser. The school has been working on the document through the summer and has made it clear the finished product would be a reflection of both administration and student input. In its next meeting, the University Senate will vote on whether the document should be accepted as is, or amended to clarify a few bones of contention.

One of these issues will undoubtedly be application of the code. As most would agree, such a code is a necessity to ensure a clearly defined disciplinary procedure, some might not be too enthused about how far-reaching the new code seems to be. In its attempt to cover all the bases, it seems the authors of the code have even included contingency plans for off-campus conduct which, according to part one, section six, could "have an adverse effect on the proper functioning of the University or rights of a member of the University community to use and enjoy the University's learning and working environments."

For example, how do students interpret "adverse effects" for incidents that take place off campus? Does this mean if two students get into a fight off-campus, resulting in one student's hospitalization and inability to attend class, the offender can look forward to academic sanctions aside from any criminal charges they could face? This seeming double jeopardy illustrates the code's breadth could be too far flung in certain circumstances. It seems the vagaries in the code could end up penalizing students who previously would not have had to worry about their conduct off-campus affecting their academic status.

However, those same vagaries also provide students with enough leeway to properly defend themselves against academic sanction. The new code also formalizes the appeals process for academic violations and clearly defines examples of sanctions from restitution to expulsion.

Ill behaviour is obviously something Western's administration, faculty and student body all wish to end, but must ensure they don't paint themselves into a disciplinary corner in the process.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000