University considers new non-academic misconduct policy

In the interest of streamlining the current process and addressing the concerns of some students, a new non-academic misconduct policy will be considered for implementation at the next general faculties council meeting on February 4.
Currently, each faculty handles non-academic misconduct cases. The proposed policy would institute a university-wide committee to deal with these concerns instead. University of Calgary vice-provost (students) Ann Tierney suggested the new policy reflected student concerns with the clarity of the current non-academic regime, as well as a desire to open up more options to be pursued when applying sanctions to non-academic misconduct issues.

“The goal of the policy is to deal with non-academic misconduct in an educational way and non-punitively,” said Tierney.

Students’ Union president Charlotte Kingston said that when academic units independently determine non-academic misconduct issues, rules are often applied differentially across campus.

“The case that’s usually cited is that there were four residence students charged with non-academic misconduct, and all four of them got different sanctions,” she said.

Kingston explained that the proposed policy is also intended to address student concerns that the non-academic hearings, which have to this point involved their faculties’ dean, could have an impact on them academically.
“Our small faculties have a real intimidation factor when they have to deal directly with their deans,” she said.

SU student rights advisor Robert Clegg, pointing out that non-academic misconduct issues generally affected the university as a whole rather than a single faculty, was comfortable with the change.

“I do think it’s a logical approach to take, to separate the academic from the non-academic….From a practical point of view it would be a lot easier — one stop instead of 17,” said Clegg.

Another potential change from the current non-academic misconduct policy was proposed by the SU after a lengthy Student Academic Assembly meeting Monday night.

“We proposed the amendment that would allow for legal council in the case of concurrent criminal proceedings for students,” said Kingston. “The amendment was adopted by GFC steering and will go forward to the GFC as part of the non-academic misconduct policy.”

The question of whether or not students should be allowed to utilize legal council if they are criminally charged for an action at the same time as they face a non-academic misconduct hearing for the action was an important one for Social Sciences representative Chris Kalantzis.

“Students aren’t intrinsically knowledgeable about the proceedings, so legal council should be allowed,” he said.

“In such a serious case, it’s only fair that we allow them to seek legal council.”

James Thomas, Student Legal Assistance student director 2010, also felt that legal representation in such situations was warranted.

“Given that we already extend representation to people facing criminal charges, I think it’s appropriate, particularly in light of the complexity of such matters, that people have assistance throughout the whole process,” said Thomas.

Under the current policy students aren’t allowed to seek legal council at all for non-academic misconduct cases. The slight proposed change to allow students legal council when they face concurrent criminal charges — but only then — reflects the opinion that having lawyers present at all levels of the hearings may overly formalize matters and potentially escalate the situation.

“The general sentiment was that it just overly-complicates the situation,” said Kingston.

Students will be allowed to bring the ombudsperson, SU rights advisor, any elected student representative, a friend or family member to their hearings.

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