A faculty code of conduct is in the works for St. Thomas University Students’ Union. Sam Titus, vice president education of STUSU, announced at a Jan. 30 council meeting that he would begin developing a code for the union to reference should any student-professor altercations arise.
“It’s self-evidently valuable, in our opinion. If ever something came up we could cite this document as the STUSU’s opinion on it,” said Titus.
The STUSU doesn’t have power over the professors and how they run their classrooms, but that’s not the point of the document, according to Titus. The code of conduct wouldn’t be policy the union could act on, but rather a clear-cut document for reference to allow STUSU to make a strong stance. It’s not about punishing misbehaving professors, it’s about making noise.
Titus didn’t begin the work on this project – his predecessor, Luke Robertson, did. Titus believes last year’s STUSU began looking into a code of conduct after Mikhail Molchanov kicked a student with a disability out of his class. The political science professor then told his class, “If you’re unable to function properly in society you should be in an institution.”
“I don’t think that the creation of the faculty code of conduct came about directly as a result of what happened with Dr. Molchanov… but it was kind of an eye-opener,” said Titus.
The university doesn’t have any formal policy in place to deal with a situation like Molchanov’s, according to Titus. With the union collective agreement and professors’ rights, it’s difficult to say which way exactly a professor can or should be punished in incidents of impropriety.
“To speak candidly, the rule is just don’t be a dick,” said Titus.
Titus isn’t sure how a faculty code of conduct will be received by professors. Other universities across Canada have already successfully created such documents, and Titus will be referring to those to create a document tailored to STU’s needs. He suspects some proffessors might scoff at the idea, but he’s not worried about an aggressive push-back.
He doesn’t see an end in sight for this project this year, but he’s hoping to get his successor excited about it to carry the torch. He doesn’t want anything radical right now, just a good foundation for next year.
“Just establishing some norms would be a good place to start,” he said. “It will allow us to make criticism on the basis of policy, which is always better than nothing.
“It’s about establishing legitimacy.”
St. Thomas’s faculty union, FAUST, did not respond to requests to comment on the code of conduct before deadline.
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