Addressing the non-academic challenges

Graphic by: Joshua Awolade
Graphic by: Joshua Awolade

Wilfrid Laurier University’s student code of conduct is undergoing a major facelift.

The non-academic student misconduct policy, which focuses on unlawful use of alcohol, violence, theft, disruption of university activity and drug trafficking, was created in 1996 and updated again in the early 2000s. The new code seeks to update these issues with ones more relevant to students today.

“It helps identify and synthesize the challenges we see more currently, like misuse of technology, cyber bullying and a lot of the times it’s about giving students the information that what they’re doing is actually problematic,” explained the dean of students at the Waterloo campus, Leanne Holland Brown.

Student conduct administrator Drew Piticco echoed Holland Brown’s statement.

“When that behaviour is taking place on university forums, that’s an issue. Especially when we become aware of that, we have a liability to help solve that problem.”

Holland Brown is confident in the university’s involvement in students’ behaviour, believing that academic and non-academic conduct go hand in hand.

“We talk about university being a place where people grow into who they were meant to be, but if we don’t have a way to help facilitate the personal development as well as the academic development, we’re falling short of our institutional goals,” she said.

Outside of the code itself, the processes in place for the dean of students’ office to address misconduct are seeing a revamp as well. Previously, violators would bring their case to a council made up of students; now, they are taking a more constructive approach.

“There were more complicated scenarios where it seemed less appropriate for students to be going in front of their peers. That may pertain to conduct that was a result of a mental health issue, or conduct that was in response to a personal situation like an abusive relationship, or a situation which was complimented by criminal charges,” said Holland Brown.

Violators instead will be meeting with a professional trained in conflict resolution and the format will be more of a conversation rather than an appeal.

“When students make mistakes, which they do, our new process is a way for them to learn from that and go on to be better people and more respectful citizens and more engaged learners,” Holland Brown continued.

“We are not the courts. We are not the police. We are not a judicial mechanism … We are an institution of higher education. What we’re good at is education, student learning and student development,” said Piticco.

He emphasized that the new code is more of a proactive tool to demonstrate to students what the expectations for behaviour are, and hopes it will prevent future infractions. But currently, many students aren’t even aware of the existence of the non-academic code of conduct.

Brantford campus dean of students, Adam Lawrence, explained that they want as many people involved as possible in the process, to ensure students are engaged and aware of the new code.

“We really need people that have a vested interest in what it means to be a successful student on campus. And really that’s what the code is. We’re trying to get away from it being a list of rules, but something that really does foster this positive and safe learning environment,” he said.

The revised non-academic code of conduct will be available to students by the end of this week.

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