Given the disparity in both process and outcome that have historically occurred (and threatens to continue as such), between complaints brought against students under the Code of Student Conduct, it is clear that the policy and University approach to such matters are flawed.
In an institution where critical dialogue and freedom of expression are viewed as fundamental principles (as noted by Vice-Provost, Student Affairs Dr. al Shaibah in the “important message” statement issued Oct 20), there is an assumed responsibility to uphold the beliefs and values which allow those principles to flourish.
Dalhousie University has had the honour of appointing to its faculties leading academics in the fields of critical practice and dialogue, institutionalized oppression, and systemic racism. Among these faculty are many strong Women of Colour who are exemplary leaders in these fields, such as former Directors of the School of Social Work Dr.’s Jan Fook and Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard.
Given the ample opportunity Dalhousie University has had to learn and implement these fundamental principles, it is disheartening to witness the institution continually ignoring the essential practical components required to successfully achieve meaningful critical dialogue. For successful critical practice to be implemented, an environment open to and supportive of critical reflection, deconstruction, and reconciliation must exist. The University, therefore, has a duty to meaningful critical reflection and action of the impact of its policies on marginalized students in particular, in regard to the systemic inequities that exist and are reinforced within this academic institution.
The following represents NSPIRGs recommendations and demands to hold Dalhousie accountable to those aforementioned fundamental principles:
- NSPRIG recommends that Dalhousie University do better at implementing and enacting the various policies aimed at protecting student rights (including but not limited to the Sexual Harassment Policy, Personal Harassment Policy, Prohibited Discrimination Policy)
- NSPIRG recommends that the Dalhousie University, President Dr. Richard Florizone, Vice-Provost Student Affairs Dr. Arig al Shaibah, and the Senate publicly acknowledge that the current Code of Student Conduct has been created within systems which have the capacity to reinforce systemic oppression, and as such acknowledge that the Code of Student Conduct is not immune from reinforcing those same systems. Given this,
- NSPIRG urges the University, University president Dr. Richard Florizone, and Vice Provost Student Affairs Dr. Arig al Shaibah to condemn the violence and hatred targeted towards Dalhousie Student Union’s Vice President Academic and External, and to recognize it as being fueled by racism and misogyny.
- NSPIRG recommends that Dalhousie University amend the Code of Student Conduct, in such a way as to recognize legal precedent across Canada, to actively acknowledge that Rights and Responsibilities do not exist in a vacuum separate of one another. Both must be considered within the context of a complaint, in order to move towards a truly reconciliatory process.
The Code of Student Conduct and complaint process set the stage for misappropriation of power in disciplinary investigations. Specifically, they set the tone of a quasi-criminal investigation, in that the complaint loses the student-to-student engagement, becoming university against student. Through the process of determining merit of complaints, the VP Student Affairs becomes the representative of the complaint, at which point the process becomes punitive in nature. As such, neither complainant nor accused receive an appropriate system of support.
The University has a responsibility to protect its student body, and this includes supporting and protecting the rights of students accused of Code of Student Conduct violations. Once an investigation is launched, under the current structure, the punitive nature of the discourse overrides the recognition and protection of rights. As such,
- NSPIRG recommends the University amend the Code of Student Conduct to a Student Rights and Responsibilities based policy, which would encompass both disciplinary measures and protection of rights in the same document.
- NSPIRG also demands that the Senate act with a duty of social justice, and transparency in regard to filling the seat on the Disciplinary committee vacated by Masuma Asad Khan. As such, we demand that the member chosen to replace Masuma on the disciplinary committee is a) a woman of colour, and b) has a comparable depth of knowledge on systemic racism as it applies to academic structures. If this is not accommodated through the student selection process, we recommend that a sitting committee member resign to allow the appointment of a Woman of Colour with an background in systemic racism within educational institutions.
NSPIRG wishes to take this opportunity to strongly support the motion to increase student representation within the Senate.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and Staff,
Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group