A chance to come clean

New policy reduces  student discipline hearings

With 56,000 students – the majority of whom are under the age of 25 and living on their own for the first time—UBC is bound to be the scene of hijinks and the odd case of bad behaviour.

But when students cross the line, should the university discipline them? What kind of infractions deserve correction? The university expects students to be respectful of other community members when they are on or near campus, or participating in a university activity. When those expectations are broken, what is the role of the university—to punish, or to help students to learn from their mistakes?

UBC implemented a new approach to non-academic misconduct starting at its Okanagan campus in September 2009, and at its Vancouver campus in February 2012.

The Student Code of Conduct lays out exactly what is considered unacceptable conduct, and the possible disciplinary measures that could ensue. Non-academic misconduct can mean anything from incidents that involve alcohol—drinking in public, disruptive behaviour or damage to property—to criminal incidents, such as theft, stolen parking passes or assault

“Universities are all about learning and there are all kinds of learning that people do in their lives,” said Ian Cull, Associate Vice President of Students at UBCO. “Often we learn important lessons from mistakes and reflecting on poor judgment.”

When there is an allegation of misconduct, the student is invited to meet to review the incident and discuss appropriate outcomes with the campus student conduct manager. When no agreement is reached or when the incident is very serious, the case is referred to a student committee that is chaired by a senior faculty or staff member. The findings are then set out in a report to the President who will decide what disciplinary measures, if any, are needed. Students may appeal the President’s decision to the Senate appeals committee.

Cull, who chaired the Okanagan student committee for three years, says the new system incorporates major changes.

The new process allows for the possibility of reaching a resolution early on, avoiding the more formal hearing process. Students have the opportunity to review the allegation and tell their side of the story to the student conduct manger, who can help the student explore the options to resolve the matter. If the student agrees with the proposed resolution then an agreement is signed.

“If the student committed the alleged misconduct, they have the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and be part of the resolution process,” says Chad Hyson, Vancouver’s student conduct manger. “Perhaps no further action is required—upon investigation the facts may not support the allegation.”

Most students would rather resolve the issue at this stage. Of the 110 reports filed in the Okanagan in the 2009/10 academic year, only 11 were referred to committee. For the 2011/12 school year, only three of 145 reports were sent up.

More serious cases, like assault, will go through the Student Code of Conduct process and will automatically be sent to the committee in addition to being dealt with by law enforcement and the judicial system.

“Students are much more engaged,” said Cull. “You sit before your peers and have to explain your behaviour to them. The weight of that judgment and the experience are a lot different than if you’re dealing with an administrator.” •

For more information, students should review their Academic Calendar. www.calendar.ubc.ca

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