Candour, Confidence and Codes

CW: Brief mention of sexual harassment and assault

“Unfortunately, a small group of students are running a campaign against the use of Proctorio and have disseminated materials that are both unfounded and untrue. This is not only disappointing – it is a clear breach of our student code of conduct.”
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) to all ANU staff, 22 April 2020

What has been disappointing, though, is how much misinformation has been circulated to discredit
not only ANU students, but our advocacy and our integrity. Students are being encouraged to believe things that are not true, and I want to ease any anxiety or stress that this may have caused by focusing on facts. Let’s address some of the incorrect ideas doing the rounds here:

No, the Student Code of Conduct does not exist as an official policy. The only codes of conduct listed as official ANU policy apply to staff and visitors to the university.

No, the Student Code of Conduct does not count as an official policy just because it is in an approval process now. It has yet to be signed off by the Vice-Chancellor, so currently student behaviour is only governed by the Discipline Rule. 

No, the Student Code of Conduct does not become active just because it was approved by the Academic Board on April 20. Before it can go to the Vice-Chancellor it must also be approved by the Senior Management Group.

No, the Student Code of Conduct cannot be used to punish you, even if it is approved by the Senior Management Group in the near future. Any alleged breaches will have occurred before the policy came into effect. 

No, the Student Code of Conduct would not lead to you being publicly declared guilty without having been found to be in breach, even if it was an official policy. That would be defamatory.

No, the Student Code of Conduct would not declare you guilty, even if it had been passed and did apply retroactively. If you are alleged to be in breach you would need to be informed of any allegations and no student has received such communication from ANU.

No, the Student Code of Conduct would not declare you guilty, even if it had been passed, applied retroactively and you had been informed of a breach. Anything even remotely resembling natural justice would grant you the right to defend yourself.

No, the Student Code of Conduct would not lead to a senior university member publicly announcing a breach to every single staff member at ANU, even if it had been passed, applied retroactively, involved notice and a right of reply. That would be extremely unprofessional…

To reiterate: the Student Code of Conduct is a tool intended to make ANU a safer place for all students. It has been long fought for by student leaders, particularly those from ANUSA and the Womens’ Department who are active in the sexual assault and sexual harassment advocacy space. Some members of the university have been supportive, and the Respectful Relationships Unit and its working group have done incredible work. However, for years the university as an institution has made every effort to frustrate legitimate and constructive student activism regarding a Code of Conduct through repeated delays and roadblocks. Every time it has come close to success, it has been forced back to the drawing board through countless switches between the staff and student codes being combined or separate. The process has outlasted every student leader, to the extent that there is a mandatory history lesson in every handover. It is only recently that any serious progress has been allowed. While this progress is something to be thankful for, the process has taken far longer than it should have, and has been a burden on far too many student leaders. Frankly, the fact that a policy designed to protect students, which faced significant opposition from the university and has yet to be made official, is being used as a tool to publicly discredit student activists leaves me feeling sick. No wonder students don’t trust ANU. 

 

Callum Dargavel is a former Chair of the Interhall Council and former President of the Bruce Hall Common Room Committee