To: Senior Operations Committee of the Board
From: Peter P. Mercer
Date: October 22, 1999
Re: Action Taken Against Four Engineering Students
I wish to advise the Board of the basis on which action was initially taken against the four Engineering students who vandalized several student residences. The ensuing debate over the action that was taken against the four students has frequently raised the issue of the Student Disciplinary Code.
The Code was enacted by the Board of Governors but it was not intended to be the exclusive means of dealing with unacceptable student conduct, as is made clear in the University's Academic Calendar. According to clause A.2 of the Code, it was "enacted in order to allow students to regulate their own conduct" but where that self-regulation is not appropriate, other mechanisms are available. The Code provides one avenue for dealing with minor offences. The sanctions that can be imposed under the Code are non-academic in nature, and include small fines, community service work and restriction of social privileges. However, the University has always reserved its right and authority to impose other sanctions where it was deemed necessary. Such sanctions have included summary trespass notices issued against students and academic sanctions such as expulsion from the University where the particular actions have been deemed to be of sufficient gravity and/or where there has been a threat to the safety of other members of the University community. The University also has the option of laying a charge under federal or provincial statutes.
In this case, the Student Disciplinary Code was considered but the decision was made that it was not appropriate to proceed under it. The prospect of laying criminal charges (which, under clause A.3, would automatically mean that the Code has no jurisdiction) was considered. However, after the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Science advised that a criminal conviction would prevent a graduate from being licensed as a Professional Engineer, the laying of criminal charges was discarded as too harsh a measure. Before deciding how to proceed, the Vice-Provost, Dr. Roma Harris, and the Vice-President (Administration) and General Counsel asked to meet with the students to hear their side of the story firsthand and to give them the opportunity to make submissions. Through the Acting Dean, they requested that the University Ombudsperson, Frances Bauer, be allowed to attend and she and the Acting Dean were both present.
This informal hearing was held in the President's Office Board Room on the afternoon of 13 September 1999. The essential facts were not in dispute as the students had acknowledged their role in their statements to the University Police. These statements were reviewed with them, each was given the opportunity to comment or ask questions and questions were asked of them. The following day, the students were each advised by letter of the decision that their registration as students at The University of Western Ontario should be rescinded for the current academic year 1999-2000. Just as students who fail to meet the University's academic standards may be required to withdraw for a year, so was the same measure considered appropriate for these students who clearly failed to meet the University's standards of behaviour.
Authority for the imposition of this sanction is found in the Academic Calendar 1999 at page 34.
SANCTIONS FOR ACADEMIC AND OTHER OFFENSES
Registration in the University and the right of full access to the library, residences, specialized equipment or other University facilities implies a commitment on the part of a student to use such facilities in accordance with established rules. A student not fulfilling these obligations becomes liable to the imposition of academic sanctions.
Expulsion was also considered as a possible sanction but was rejected in light of the students' expressed regret for their actions. Furthermore, although the rescission of registration may be considered the equivalent of suspension for one year, the students were advised that no such notation would appear on their transcripts.
In subsequent discussions with the Acting Dean and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Science, the Senior Administration decided, on October 4, 1999, to agree to the reinstatement of the Engineering students in light of the Faculty's willingness to support a review of its activities and traditions and to receive recommendations from a review team about changes that need to occur. A copy of the Agreement with the Faculty of Engineering Science is attached*. I believe it would be valuable, however, if the Board of Governors could also confirm the position of the Administration that the circumstances in this case justified the decision by the Senior Administration not to proceed under the Student Disciplinary Code but to treat the matter as sanctionable under the terms set out in the University's Academic Calendar.
* unavailable for the Web version of the agenda. Paper copies (Appendix III, Annex 1, Page 3) may be obtained from the University Secretariat.