Student code of conduct to see major changes

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Throughout the upcoming year, Wilfrid Laurier University’s non-academic student code of conduct may be receiving some major changes. The non-academic code has been in effect since 1996, but hasn’t changed much since.

“When we started doing our research, we realized there are a lot of best-practice models out there that ours is not aligning with,” explained Leanne Holland-Brown, dean of students. “It did not align with best-practice in its current form only because it had become outdated.”

The behaviour of incoming students changes roughly every five years when new generations of cohorts enter, so with the code being nearly 16 years old, there are some issues beginning to arise. An example Holland-Brown gave to show the outdate nature of the code was the lack of reference to prominent issues students face today, such as cyber-bullying and mental health. The current version of the code also references drugs only in regards to trafficking, which is problematic because there are other situations where drugs can have a negative effect on students.

According to Holland-Brown, the current code is also very ambiguous. In order to fix this, the changes will expand upon the present nine violations and turn them into roughly 20. This will hopefully make violations much more explicit to students so they can properly understand their expectations both on and off campus.

The newly revised code will serve two purposes.

“It strives to really uphold the rights of students – all the students at Laurier – and really tries to create a culture where those rights are maintained, but the other side of it is to help students clearly understand what their responsibilities are,” explained Holland-Brown.

In order to achieve these goals, however, both the ways in which students can violate the code, and the ways that violations will be dealt with, will see a transformation.

“We wanted to try and look at the process and say, ‘how we can make this better for all students and for this community?’” said Drew Piticco, manager at the student leadership centre. “We [also] want to make sure we have a pretty quick turn-around for when a student violates the student code of conduct.”

With the current code, it could take months after a violation before the student meets with the judicial council to discuss the repercussions of their actions.

The new changes will hopefully make this process faster, and have more of an educational edge to it. In the past, certain violations had specific ramifications, but now each student will be dealt with separately by examining various factors.

“I think it’s very important to realize that we are going to come at this from a clearly articulate, philosophical approach … this is about an educational approach to student conduct,” commented Piticco. “We’re going to have a conversation that says, ‘do you understand the harm that has been caused to yourself, to this institution, to the community as a whole, and what do you think is fair?’”

Holland-Brown echoed Piticco’s comments regarding how to help students recover from their mistakes.

“There’s lots of learning [in university], and people are going to make mistakes, but that the sense is that we really have a culture where people take responsibility for their actions, and collectively we encourage each other to be the best we can,” she said.

Changes are also being made, however, because student’s behaviour on and off campus can greatly effect Laurier’s reputation.

“When behaviour happens on the fringe of campus, it is not uncommon for us [the Dean of Students’ Office] to get calls and emails from neighbours who are either disenchanted or disappointed with the student behaviour that they have seen, and feel a sense of responsibility to make sure the university is aware,” explained Holland-Brown.

Piticco concluded by stating that after extensive research, he is hoping the changes brought to Laurier’s new code will be brought up to par and positively reflect the actions and attitudes of the Laurier campus.

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