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Allan Rock on the lockdown, space on campus, and a code of conduct

Photo: Sabrina Nemis

Evaluating the emergency response system

The university went on lockdown on Oct. 22 in response to fatal shootings that took place at the National War Memorial. At the time, students spoke out about feeling uninformed, receiving unclear directions on what to do, and feeling that the lockdown was variably enforced across campus.

“I think we got the basics right,” said Allan Rock. He said the system notifying all students and staff was slow due to the large number of people it’s intended to reach.

The university has a committee looking at ways to improve the emergency response system, he said, including a loudspeaker system, more use of social media, and a way of evaluating the level of threat.

The report is expected in the next two months and will primarily be recommending ways of improving the system, should it ever be needed again. “Hopefully, there’s not going to be a next time,” Rock said.

Considering a code of conduct

The Revolutionary Student Movement and the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) have been concerned about a potential University of Ottawa code of conduct that could enforce rules on student behaviour outside the classroom that would affect academic standing.

At a press conference regarding the suspended men’s varsity hockey program last summer, Rock announced that the university would be implementing new behaviour guidelines for student athletes.

Rock confirmed to the Fulcrum that the U of O put together a taskforce last April to address the issue of a student code of conduct in addition to the guidelines for athletes.  The taskforce is made up of 15 individuals, including two graduate and two undergraduate students.

“Ought there to be a code of conduct?” the taskforce asked, according to Rock. “If so, how should it be developed, what should it look like, how would it be administered, and what role does the university have in the responding to behaviour off-campus or in behaviour that’s not related to the academic role of the university?”

The university will make a decision after the taskforce submits its recommendations by the end of semester.

Free speech failing grade

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms released its annual report on free speech and the U of O administration (as well as the SFUO) received a failing grade. While Rock said the administration would consider the report and “try to learn from it in the future,” he doesn’t feel a lack of free speech is a big issue on campus.

“I think people feel free to speak as they want to,” he said.

Creating more space on campus

As Rock has said before, ensuring that the university can provide first-year students with housing is part of his intention to foster a sense of community on campus. Until last year, the university only had 3,000 spaces, and has been working to acquire more.

“We don’t have enough, we’re negotiating for more, we’re happy with the 500 additional ones that will come from Friel Street and Henderson (Avenue), and we’ll keep building on that in the future,” Rock said.

Space in general is an issue on campus, and different groups, including the University of Ottawa Muslim Students’ Association, have requested more from the university to accommodate the expanding student population. Rock acknowledged that he had received a letter from the group and said, “We’re looking at options right now.”

He said the U of O has been working with both the SFUO and the Graduate Students’ Association to address space issues. He pointed to the Board of Governors’ (BOG) recent approval to build a Learning Centre, which will provide additional study and prayer space for students when it’s built in two and a half years.

Looking ahead

The BOG recently announced they are looking for a replacement for Rock when he finishes his term in 2016. Although it is still some time away, Rock said he may consider staying to teach law. Rock attended law school here, practised law, and taught at Osgoode Hall Law School.

For the remainder of his term, he’ll be “trying to make the experience of every one of our students richer, trying to deepen our research intensity, internationalize the university like never before, and ensure that it remains a strong bilingual university community to la Francophonie,” he said.

“Those are my marching orders until June 30, 2016.”