Volume 95, Issue 20

Thursday, October 4, 2001
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Editorial Board 2001-2002

Crime and punishment

Editorial Cartoon

Crime and punishment

Last week, Western administration pressured the Undergraduate Engineering Society to cancel the infamous "Movie Night," warning it might violate certain statutes of the Code of Student Conduct. Yet, this recent event proves the Code represents a reality far from the ideal it was written to uphold.

In light of such circumstances, changes to the code are necessary.

The document, which administration uses to enforce punishment upon those who defame the school through actions or incidents caused by negligent or reckless behaviour, is fine for the purpose of policing those who would seek to give the school a bad name, but no one monitors the validity of the Code's application. In essence, no one polices the police.

The document should be a "Code of Student Ethics" – a code explaining what students should aspire to.

It should be a code that evolves and over time and should represent a behavioural model for Western students decided upon through compromise – a middle-ground between how students would like to act and how administration expects them to act.

The Code should be fair and should foster within students the expectation the document will bring justice.

It should carry an appeals process that allows students represented by counsel of their choice to appeal any decisions made by university authorities under the Code.

Currently there is no involved appeals process for code violations, nor are students allowed counsel. Most students are not aware of these far-reaching, hard-line procedures or their implications.

Students may not mind a code of conduct, but what they don't want is a code they cannot feel safe being governed by.

The Code – perverted as it is in terms of justice – at least represents a road map for students to understand exactly what will happen to them if they act in certain ways.

This is something students never had before.

Knowledge of these regulations and the punishments for breaking those regulations is good for students, but this knowledge shouldn't hang over a student's head.

Administration is using the Code to threaten different student groups into doing what they want. The recent debacle surrounding the engineering pub is a prime example of those bully tactics. Suddenly it seems Western is trying to protect students from themselves too soon.

The Code was intended as a system of laws and consequences. Administration must not take these laws and use them to intimidate students, under the assumption a crime might occur.

Prevention is important, but administration's handling of the Code, to this point, has been far too reactionary and overbearing. Administration should invest their energy in educating and informing students and working with student groups to seek common good.

Only then will the Code approach the lofty ideals it was created to expand.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001