York introduces a new Student Code of Conduct

Following an extensive consultation with students, faculty and staff, York University has released its new Student Code of Conduct, which aims to provide a fair, transparent, and easily understood system to deal with inappropriate student behaviour.

 Above: York students played an integral role in the University’s new student code
 of conduct

Among the most tangible improvements in the code is that students will now have a say in the process, including allowing students to be judged by students. The code requires a formal complaint be filed before a case can proceed. Students who have complaints lodged against them will now get written notice detailing alleged violations, they will know about the case before responding to it, and final decisions will be in writing for all parties so that responses and appeals can be properly administered.

“Our extensive consultation process clearly identified the desire and need for change,” said Cynthia Summers, director of student conduct and dispute resolution. “When comparing the way we opened the process up to the entire York community with what other universities are offering, I strongly believe we now have the best code in Canada, if not North America.”

Presidential regulations within the York Act have determined dispute resolution for students for more than 20 years. The new code represents an initiative to review and renew this system. It has been published in bilingual form for the first time and is freely available in print and online.

“Extensive student consultation into how the code was examined, developed and ultimately applied is the distinguishing element of our new code,” said Summers, who was responsible for devising the process and producing the new code. “The unprecedented feedback in building the code ensures that it accurately reflects the values of the current York University community.”

Right: Cynthia Summers

“Typically, universities revamping their code of conduct strike a committee — usually made up of administration only, with legal support — and don’t allow for consultation just because it is easier to do so,” said Summers. “With the encouragement of President Marsden, and to the University’s credit, York’s administration opted for a huge consultation in developing our new code.”

Eight public forums, held at various times of the day this past February and March, allowed for public input into the creation of the code. An online survey, operated by an outside firm, was also used to gather anonymous feedback from more than 2,500 respondents.

A working committee made up equally of students, faculty and staff created a draft that was then subjected to focus groups comprised of respondents from the Web survey. Three student groups were formed to carry out a review: two at Keele campus, and one at Glendon. The feedback from students at this stage proved to be very thoughtful and useful to the process, said Summers.

In the end, the new code has been designed to encourage equity and respect in a transparent atmosphere. The code offers more rights to students, frequent reviews, and a greater range of sanctions allowing for judgments that take into consideration local values.

The code is deliberately written in plain language, both French and English, to specify a student’s rights and that they have an equal voice in any judgments that are made and any resulting appeals. The code will be reviewed after its first year, and every two years thereafter.

The York Student Code of Conduct can be found in printed form throughout the campus and online at www.yorku.ca/scdr.