Draft code of conduct could affect off-campus activities

Barry Craig, vice-president academic at St. Thomas University, says hazing allegations following the death of a student last October is one of the reasons why the university has decided to review its policies. (Graphic by Tom Bateman/AQ)

St. Thomas University’s new student code of conduct could cover on and off-campus activities during the school year and summer break.

A draft of the new code was presented to the St. Thomas University students’ union for review, and will go to the university’s senate in mid-September. The university hopes to implement it by October.

A review of university policies was ordered following the death of a student last October which involved drinking and allegations of hazing in Harrington Hall and off-campus.

The 44-page document is a collection of existing academic and athletic policies as well as policies not written down previously.

STU vice-president academic Barry Craig said the extension to off-campus behaviour is limited.

“We went back and forth on that. So we’ve limited the code in dealing with off-campus misconduct,” said Craig.

Misconduct that is socially frowned upon that a student may be responsible for in their hometown, for example, has nothing to do with the code, Craig added.

The new guidelines cover academic terms and “scheduled vacations, summer months, periods of leave, or off-campus study,” reads section two of the draft code.

For action to be taken, violations must involve at least two STU students, happen at a university sectioned event, or happen when STU students are representing the university, such as at an athletics event.

Craig said the university was already wanted to update the code before last fall.

“Certainly the events last year only underlined that, yeah, that was the right direction. We do need to have all of these regulations and policies in a clear place that people can see and made explicit,” said Craig.

A student conduct committee with representatives from the university administration, faculty, and students has been created to deal with violations.

There are three levels where violations can be dealt with starting at the residence life level, moving up the the dean of students, and finally the student conduct committee.

“Only the most serious cases will go to the student conduct committee. And they will proceed with the principles of natural justice whereby evidence has to be presented, the person accused of an offense knows what the offense is, sees the evidence, can respond to it and then the committee will make a decision.”

The committee has the power to exonerate students, reprimand them, levy a fine up to $500, require community or university service, make the student pay for any damages or place the student on conduct probation.

It can recommend a campus ban, suspension of the student for up to year, dismissal of the student for a period of up to three years after which the student could apply for readmission, or expulsion of the student with no possibility for readmission.

A student facing legal action would still face action under the code.

STU’s new code of conduct also specifically looks at hazing, defining it as “any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

A list at the end of the code gives over 21 specific examples of hazing including burying someone alive, throwing food at someone, spraying someone with water of any temperature, sleep deprivation, paddling, having new members run errands for older members, not providing edible food, and “forcing, coercing, allowing, suggesting, or permitting students to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.”

The new code was drafted by a committee with representatives from athletics, administration, faculty, and students.

Craig said the code will have very little impact on most students.

“Most students at St. Thomas by and large don’t engage in misconduct. Most students go through their entire academic career without any academic misconduct or any social misconduct.

“So I would think it would have next to no effect on the average student.”

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