Minutes of the Fifth Meeting of the Student Discipline Committee held on 12 May 2004
Members: Dr J E Davies (Chair), J B C Blood, M Hutton, R M King, T
Longstaff, R H Mayo,
J E Mutton (ab), M Shuker (ab), Professor J B Thomas, R Warren
By invitation: D J Bunker, R J Kennedy, J B White
In attendance: D L Wolfe
Apologies for absence: J E Mutton, M Shuker
1. Minutes (DISC03-M3)
The Minutes of the Fourth Meeting of the Committee held on 24 November 2003 were confirmed.
2. Matters Arising from the Minutes
(DISC03-M3, Min. 26.1 refers)
.1 University Policy on Student Behaviour
It was noted that the policy statement had not yet been promulgated. It was agreed to seek an assurance that a policy would be promulgated by the beginning of the 2004/2005 Academic Year.
.2 Harassment and Bullying
(DISC0M2, Min. 26.4 refers)
The Committee noted the University’s Policy Statement on Harassment and Bullying. As with major offences under Ordinance XVII, the list of examples given was not exclusive, a fact welcomed by the Committee. The Secretary REPORTED that he had recently attended a meeting of the Harassment Panel to give an overview of student disciplinary issues.
Members who had been involved in a recent Disciplinary Panel expressed the view that the Policy and many of its concepts were clearly unfamiliar to many students. The Secretary was asked to ensure that it was more widely disseminated.
Another member noted that the composition of the Harassment Panel was grossly imbalanced, with twelve women and one man. This might discourage some members of the University from raising issues. It was AGREED to enquire how membership of the Panel was determined.
.3 Relationship with the
(DISC03-M3, Min. 26.5 refers)
The Committee was disappointed to learn that no meeting had as yet taken place between University Officers and senior members of the Leicestershire Constabulary, and asked that such a meeting be convened as a matter of urgency.
3. Policy and Guidelines on the Use of Illicit Substances
The Committee received and considered a proposed new policy as recommended by Student Services Committee, which it had been asked to recommend to Senate for adoption. The Secretary reported that unfortunately none of the officers of the Student Services Committee had been available to present the proposals.
A number of concerns were identified:-
· There was confusion throughout between the use of the words “drugs” and “substances” which needed to be addressed. Furthermore some references to the use of illicit substances should in fact refer to the illicit use of [legal] substances.
· It was unclear at what audience the policy was meant to be addressed: in some cases it was aimed at students, in others at persons in positions of responsibility.
· In some sections, for example those dealing with solvent abuse, more explicit reference to the legal framework would be welcome.
· The paragraph on First Aid measures was dated.
· It was not clear whether the resource implications of the Policy, particularly in regard to training, had been addressed.
· The document comprised both Policy and Guidelines, which might more usefully be separate items.
The Committee had no feel for whether or not drug abuse was a major problem on the campus, but knew from its own collective experience that alcohol abuse was a major issue, and felt that the Student Services Committee should give urgent consideration to enhancing awareness of the problem and providing appropriate counselling. The Security Manager indicated that he had encountered some four or five instances of drug-dealing on campus – all by non-students – and a small number of minor offences involving cannabis for personal use had been dealt with by Wardens. It was of course possible that some of the incidents involving alcohol had also involved drug abuse.
It was RESOLVED to invite the Student Services Committee to reconsider its paper in light of the Committee’s comments.
4. Analysis of Disciplinary Offences
The Committee received and noted an analysis of Minor and Major offences committed during the current year. [Secretary’s Note: The penalties for a major offence committed on 16 October 2003 were as recorded in the paper.]
A number of issues were raised in regard to traffic:-
· It was important to ensure that all vehicle users were properly insured
· The increase in the size of the University had led to a congested road system, which now needed urgent review. (see minute 10 below)
5. LSU Disciplinary
(DISC04-P3; DISC04-P4; DISC04-P5 plus tabled paper)
The Committee received:-
· An analysis of penalties imposed by LSU
· A schedule of minimum fines and sanctions as adopted by LSU
· A paper from Professor G Mason
· A response to Professor Mason’s paper from the President of LSU.
The Committee found the tone of Professor Mason’s paper unhelpful, and was assured by the President that there was frequent contact between herself and the Registrar in regard to matters of Student Discipline. She felt that Professor Mason had not fully understood the Union’s procedures; in particular he had misinterpreted the roles of the Discipline Committee and the Union Council. She undertook to review the paperwork to eliminate any future scope for misunderstanding.
A number of points were raised including:-
· The need for criteria in determining levels of unacceptable behaviour
· The need for a clearer definition of “banning”
· The need for an agreed procedure between the University and the Union on when misdemeanours should be referred to the Registrar.
The President confirmed that any student subject to Union discipline was entitled to access the Student Advice Centre.
On behalf of the Committee, the Chair thanked the LSU Officers for their constructive response to the issues raised, and praised their contribution both to the Committee and to the Disciplinary Panels.
6. Recent Major Hearings
The Committee discussed a number of issues arising from recent major hearings.
.1 Duty of Care
The issue of the duty of care of Hall Committees and similar bodies organising social functions was a complex one on which further legal guidance was necessary. A member indicated that such guidance was given on the University of Nottingham’s website and might be a useful model. The Committee was pleased to learn that LSU and the Registrar were working together on this issue, and that incoming Hall Chairs and Hall Committees would receive appropriate training as a matter of urgency so as to influence the organisation of freshers’ induction activities in the Autumn. In the longer term Hall Committees needed clearer enumeration of their constitutional position and lines of accountability.
.2 Excessive Drinking
The Committee felt that not only Hall Committees but also the University itself carried some responsibility for the promotion of heavy drinking of alcohol amongst students. All parties recognised that the drink culture was a national issue, and welcomed initiatives to encourage responsible drinking. Hall Committees had a crucial role in this regard, and should be offered all necessary support to promote the message.
.3 Pastoral Care
The Committee felt that one Major Hearing had arisen in part from the failure of an academic department to recognise signs of stress in a student. The erosion of personal and academic tutoring systems because of deteriorating Staff-Student Ratios was having consequences for the discipline and good order of the University. Driving down the unit of resource for students was beginning to reap serious consequences. It was suggested that the University needed a senior appointment such as “Dean of Students” to manage the personal and pastoral care of students, and to keep under review the impact of developments such as modularisation, semesterisation and increased student numbers.
It was AGREED to refer this issue to the Student Services Committee for its consideration.
The Deputy Chair of the Appeals Committee indicated that only a small number of appeals were lodged, 90% of them in regard to traffic offences. Sometimes it was difficult for the Committee to assess the full context of a particular situation, as it had the benefit of the appellant’s view, but only limited information from the University Officer imposing a penalty.
One issue was that of a suggestion from some quarters of the University that the Appeals Committee should treat appeals from international students more sympathetically than those from home students, particularly in the context of cycling without lights. The Committee felt it would be wholly improper to behave in such a way. Nonetheless it appreciated that, notwithstanding the sterling efforts of LSU, Security and the International Office, the issue of some ethnic groups riding cycles without lights, contrary to UK law and creating a safety hazard for themselves and others, was a perennial one. All concerned would continue to make determined efforts to get the message across in the Autumn.
8. Membership of the Committee
It was AGREED to recommend that paragraph I(v) of Ordinance XVII be amended to increase the number appointees from each of the three groups to five, in order to provide a greater pool from which members of Disciplinary Panels could be drawn.
9. Student Safety
The Committee noted a recent article in the THES regarding campus safety in the UK. The Security Manager reported that the rate of crime on the campus in 2003 was at its lowest level since 1983, and less than one-third that of the University of Nottingham. The Chair welcomed the relatively safe and peaceful environment at Loughborough but counselled against complacency.
10. Vehicles on Campus
In noting the larger number of traffic fines, the Committee felt that the campus road systems were now so congested that a major review was necessary. It might be appropriate to restrict student vehicle access to much of the campus, to increase charges for vehicle registration, or to consider other methods of traffic control. It was felt that the case for moving vehicles across campus during the working day had substantially diminished since the introduction of a reliable bus service. If the Security Organisation were able to spend less time dealing with unauthorised student car parking, it would be able to devote more time to crime prevention, to the benefit of the whole University community.
It was AGREED to convey the Committee’s views to Estates Management Committee.
The Committee supported the President of the LSU in the view that individuals responsible for vandalism should be disciplined and, where appropriate, should meet the costs of their actions. It was inappropriate to seek to recoup the costs of vandalism from LSU as a representative body.
12. Date of Next Meeting
To be determined (July 2004).
Author - D L Wolfe
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