By Olivia Wiens
Ryerson’s Senate is making changes to Policy 61, the student code of non-academic conduct, in order to make the rules and regulations more accessible, transparent and student-friendly, according to a post on Ryerson Today.
The revisions aim to educate students on the standards and practices of non-academic misconduct upheld by the university, according to the new Policy 61 draft. The policy was last updated in 2011.
The current code largely focuses on the responsibilities and behaviours to be upheld by the students, as well as the offences prohibited under the code. A small section is dedicated to instructing students on how to file a complaint.
The changes are expected to be finalized in May and fully implemented by the fall 2021 semester, according to the Policy 61 review information page.
“[The draft] identifies rights and responsibilities that students have under the policy,” said Marcelle Mullings, Ryerson’s director of student housing and community care, in a virtual consultation with students regarding the Policy 61 draft. “It also outlines the way students can file complaints and how complaints can be resolved.”
Previous complaints about Policy 61 show that it has not been properly enforced or advertised, allowing for a toxic environment to develop within and outside of the university for students who are racialized and/or members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.
According to the university, the Senate has rewritten the code and added new policies in order to make it easier for students to understand and use.
“The policy has been rewritten using accessible, plain language that is student-friendly,” said Marcia Boniferro, Ryerson’s coordinator, student case management, at the consultation. The draft includes a more comprehensive ‘Definitions’ section where all key terms have been thoroughly defined.
The Senate has also updated its key values in order to further emphasize the university’s expectations for its students.
“When you go to the draft and you’re looking at the big changes, you’ll see a quite robust ‘Values and Principles’ section,” said Boniferro.
The Senate has also factored in the increase of online misconduct due to the pandemic. “In the last few months with COVID-19, we’ve seen a lot more incidents that have occurred [online] because that’s where we all are,” said Mullings. “That’s an important change, and that’s something we’d like folks to review and provide feedback about.”
Mullings said students have raised concerns about cyber-bullying and online threats. The revised code now states that all non-academic expectations and responsibilities are expected to be upheld whether in-person or online.
Boniferro also highlighted that complainants—those who raise a concern about student behaviour—are now able to appeal a decision made by the Senate if they are unhappy with the final outcome.
“That way, [students] can come to the table and provide their own perspective on cases independent of the university’s position and perspective,” said Mullings.
Another significant addition to the code is an interim measures policy. “The interim measures process is meant to address situations where there are immediate concerns for community and personal safety,” said Mullings.
Under the interim measures policy, a student can be temporarily removed from campus or restricted from certain campus buildings for two days, which can be extended by Ryerson’s Senate, if they are believed to be a threat. “Interim measures are without prejudice to the ultimate outcome of the investigation,” the draft reads.
Janet Rodriguez, president of the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR), said she believes the revised policy still has room for improvement.
The new code states that students have a time limit of 30 days to file a complaint. “If at the time of the incident, it’s happening while you’re in your midterms, what do you do? Do you focus on the complaint and waste precious days or do you focus on your studies?” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez also noted that the time limit could cause an issue when dealing with cases involving trauma or bullying, as complainants may not be ready to come forward within 30 days.
“This period for filing a Complaint may be extended at the discretion of the Student Conduct Office,” according to the draft.
“This really is an opportunity for feedback. We especially value feedback from students, so we encourage you to read the draft,” said Boniferro.
“It is important for students to fully and massively participate in this because this policy is in a draft format, and it has not yet been approved,” said Rodriguez. “This is the time when students can learn about this and engage and bring about their ideas.”