Student Code of Conduct undergoes revision


A proposed revision to the Student Code of Conduct will have
a major impact on the student appeals process.

The revision, presented to Senate on June 15 by
Mary Keyes, associate vice-president of student affairs, attempts to
streamline the hearing and appeals process for disciplinary matters.

According to Keyes, when a student is charged with an
alleged offense under the code, the University has to hold a
hearing. However, the existing hearing and appeals process
takes much too long, she says, adding that it is not unusual
for it to take six months or more at the appeals stage. The major change being recommended is to eliminate the second

A student charged with an alleged offense can choose to have an
administrative hearing or a Peer Conduct Board hearing at the initial level. The Peer Conduct Board is comprised of 12 McMaster
undergraduate, graduate or part-time students in good
academic standing. After the hearing, a recommendation to
dismiss or a finding of misconduct and a recommended sanction is forwarded to the associate vice-president, student affairs.

Sanctions include written/verbal warnings, loss of privileges,
suspension or expulsion. Currently, serious violations are heard by the Senate Committee on Student Discipline, which holds a hearing and makes a decision on the case.

In the revised policy, a student may only appeal once,
directly to the Senate Board for Student Appeals.

“We are proposing one level of appeal rather than two,” says Keyes. “The two-hearing process can take weeks or months to complete. In the life of a student, one week is a long time. We want to reduce the time it takes to complete this process.”

Marc Marzotto, president of the McMaster Students Union, noted
that the MSU is in agreement with the reduction in the
number of appeals. “As long as the first hearing can be
taped, in case an appeal is made, we have no objection to
this (change).” He is more concerned about four other
sections that he believes limit the basic rights of

The section on disruptive behaviour expands the definition
to include actions that may disrupt “the regular and
essential operation of the University.” Marzotto feels that
this limits the right to free expression, admitting that
some types of student protests could hinder work on campus,
yet should still be permitted.

Similarly, he feels that in the section on Obscene or
Harassing Communication places unfair limits on the various
campus publications. He also opposes the section on Public
Intoxication, noting that with four licensed facilities on
campus, there is bound to be some public drunkenness.
Behaviour resulting from intoxication should be dealt with,
but students should not be punished for being drunk, he

Keyes said that one objective of the review was to clarify
sections of the code in response to a request by the Peer
Conduct Board. “Members of the PCB identified lapses in the code which they wanted addressed,” says Keyes. Accordingly, the section on Prohibited Conduct has been expanded and some of the individual
incidents more clearly defined.

New paragraphs have been added on such items as disruptive behaviour, obscene or harassing communication, theft or abuse of University
computing resources, identification misuse, public intoxication and refusal to provide identification. An entire section that dealt with unapproved solicitations and/or canvassing has been removed from the document.

It is also recommended that in the cases of suspension or
expulsion, a notation be made on the student's permanent
academic record and transcripts. The student may petition
Senate to have the notation removed after the period of
suspension is elapsed. The notation of expulsion may be
removed upon petition after five years.

Marzotto says the MSU will be actively seeking to have this section changed. “Non-academic offenses should not be noted on an academic transcript. It is punitive only and not right.”

At the meeting, Harvey Weingarten, provost and vice-
president academic, spoke in support of the changes. He
noted that not only is there a need to protect the safety of
those on campus, but the University must have the means to
remove quickly a student whose behaviour results in a health
or safety issue. When such a person is declared “persona non
grata,” he or she can be removed or expelled from the

Weingarten summarized a number of serious offenses that have occurred on campus such as assaults. Yet the University, he says, “is hamstrung in our ability to deal expeditiously with people in these situations.” He prevailed on Senators to rectify the problem. “We have no policies where the decision to expel could be made by one person; although, when you read the McMaster University Act, the President is charged with health and safety.”

Keyes stated that many students are quite fearful of coming forward to report an incident. “Our hands are tied if people don't respond to the code or if there isn't an allegation made.” She added that language addressing Weingarten's concerns was proposed in the revisions to the code, but was not approved by the Senate Committee on Student Affairs. “We will be addressing how to accomplish this again,” says Keyes, because safety concerns are high on the minds of many in the University community.

Senators were invited to submit their comments and suggestions about the code in writing to Keyes. These remarks, suggestions and comments arising from the meeting, along with those resulting from discussions with the MSU, will be reviewed by Keyes, then submitted for approval by the Student Committee on Student Affairs and sent back to the Senate Executive for consideration prior to going to Senate in September.