By: Kanivanan Chinniah, Sarah Letersky, and Kyle Beaudry
On September 18, the Board of Trustees released the Lewis Report and subsequently commissioned an Advisory Committee to review the non-academic discipline systems at Queen’s University. Until the Advisory Committee presents its final report, an interim protocol has control over all areas of Queen’s non-academic discipline.
Change is coming to the non-academic discipline system at Queen’s. The Principal and the Board of Trustees have made it clear to us that this is non-negotiable. No matter how much sabre-rattling there is over the purity of AMS positions, change is coming and it is coming now.
However, the climate in which these changes are occurring did not develop overnight. Arguments and options that were available to our predecessors do not carry the same weight today. Frankly, we were not dealt the same set of cards that other student leaders held during their time at Queen’s.
We believe that leadership in this case demands honest and pragmatic engagement with the review process. We also believe that changes to the structure of the non-academic discipline system at Queen’s can and should happen without compromising the principles upon which our current system stands.
The Interim Protocol is an imperfect system. Instead of addressing the real issues, it primarily addresses perceived risks. However, the existence of a central intake office is not a weakness of the interim protocol, but a potential strength: this allows all systems to share information with one another which will provide the necessary context to guide the sanctioning process. This potential will only be realized when – and only when – there is a substantial level of student involvement.
Moving forward, we will continue to advocate on the strengths of the non-academic discipline system. In spite of the perceived risks, and in spite of it being student run – or we believe because of it – our system functions well, without a single instance of serious complaint in the past few years. The AMS system is stable, and Harriet Lewis recognized the quality of work done by students who work within the system. We know that there is significant value in a peer-administered system, where students have authority to enforce community standards among students.
Since 1898, student authority over their own peers in enforcing community standards has not only been a valued tradition, it has been an effective one. The AMS system records low recidivism rates: at 2.2% over four years. This has facilitated permanent cultural change over time.
We know that Queen’s faces several cultural challenges, particularly on alcohol, and these are best addressed by preserving student authority over enforcing community standards as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct. A proper peer-on-peer system also safeguards students from the excesses of institutional political concerns, as it takes into account unique circumstances within the student community, an understanding that only students can fully grasp. When students are delegated real authority, sustained positive cultural change can happen more effectively than if students were merely participants in any new system.
The non-academic discipline system is a house, made unwieldy due to extensions built with the passage of time. The house has a strong foundation, and on this basis, it should be rebuilt, not torn down. We are confident in the fundamentals of our system, yet cognizant of the weaknesses in details, and we want to construct a system with this in mind.
This is where you come in. A three-person construction team is not enough to build what students need out of their non-academic discipline system. You can help us influence the way the new system is built. You can help ensure that a proper peer-on-peer system is constructed with the values the AMS is known for. Please take 2-3 minutes to send your thoughts on what you think needs to change, or remain the same, with respect to how non-academic discipline is carried out at Queen’s by writing to email@example.com.
Alma Mater Society of Queen's University
L’Université Queen’s est située sur les terres traditionnelles des peuples Haudenosaunee et Anishinaabe.