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No policies or appeals process in place, says report

Photo: Courtesy of the office of the ombudsperson

Rumours of a potential code of conduct have sprung up this past year at the University of Ottawa, but the latest report from the university’s ombudsperson has revealed the university has already administered academic sanctions for non-academic offences.

In some circumstances, states the report, “the presence of a student on campus may not be advisable or possible for a period of time.” In these situations, Protection Services notifies the dean of the student’s faculty about the situation, and the dean must then decide the best course of action.

The problem, according to U of O ombudsperson Lucie Allaire, is that the university has no clear-cut policy on when and why Protection Services must forward the report to the dean, nor are there any set ways for the student to appeal the process.

“I haven’t seen anything. I can’t find anything that says when do they do that and for what purpose,” she said.

According to the report, “the inquiry is not conducted in a manner to find facts to support a decision and there are no rights of appeal in place.”

Mireille Gervais, director of the Student Rights Centre (SRC), said she’s been familiar with these types of cases for a number of years.

“I don’t believe Protection Services should be forwarding these reports to the dean as policy,” she said, since they often result in several punishments for students for the same action.

“This mentality that students are ambassadors of the institution at all times of the day and night is a flawed notion that only looks to deepen the authority of the institution over students’ lives,” said Gervais.

According to Gary Slater, the U of O’s vice-president international, incident reports are only forwarded when a person on campus is considered a threat to themselves or others.

“It’s a judgment call on that basis,” he said.

The dean who receives the report then makes the final decision regarding the student in question, said Slater. They have access to recommendations from the university’s Committee of Persons of Concern, created in order to support students.

Allaire recommended Protection Services develop a “meaningful test” for reporting an incident to the dean of a faculty, and that the university create a specific policy and appeals process. Slater said they intend to make changes following Allaire’s recommendations.

“Although there might not be anything wrong from the process we’re following, it’s not explained anywhere, there’s no place where you can find the details,” said Slater.

“So, we need to make it explicit, and we will, and we’ll add an appeals process,” he said.

“In my opinion it’s not an academic penalty. It’s just making sure we minimize the risk.”