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Code exists to protect

Concordia's Code of Rights and Responsibilities governs behaviour and protects individuals' rights on campus
September 12, 2012
By Tom Peacock

This article is the first in a series of seven weekly articles being published on the topic of important Concordia policies. It is essential for all employees to familiarize themselves with these policies, as they will be asked to confirm to respect and adhere to them electronically via my empath in the MyConcordia portal following the publication of the last story.

It’s the beginning of another school year, and Concordia’s Director and Senior Advisor on Rights and Responsibilities Louise Shiller is making the rounds of orientation sessions, educating new members of the Concordia community about the Code of Rights and Responsibilities.

Concordia’s behavioural code of conduct does not discriminate, she explains to her audiences. It applies to everyone — students, staff, and faculty. “The code outlines the responsibilities that you have as a member of this community,” she says. “It also outlines your rights and, if those rights are violated, the steps for resolution and potential recourses that are available to you.”

Academic and policy issues are not covered in the Code of Rights and Responsibilities, but rather in the Terms of Reference of the Ombuds Office. In rare cases there is overlap, and Shiller says anyone who’s not sure where to go can call either the Ombuds Office or her office, and be steered in the right direction.

Shiller says she doesn’t expect every member of the community to read the entire code. “Common sense should guide you in how you treat people,” she says. “We’re promoting respect and a healthy working environment on campus for students, staff and faculty, and most people intuitively know these things.”

However, if questions do arise about behaviour, she adds, the code outlines in detail what sorts of things are prohibited — sexual and psychological harassment, forgery, theft, and threatening or violent behavior  are just some examples pulled from the long list.

Sometimes, behavioural infractions covered by the Code of Rights and Responsibilities are resolved before they are even brought to Shiller’s attention. “For example, if a student is being harassed, or a faculty member, they may go to the chair of their department, or an associate dean, and it may be resolved at that level, which is appropriate,” she says.

“But sometimes they’ll come to me and say they’re not sure what to do. We’ll review the options available together and I may assist in reaching an informal resolution or engaging in a formal process. If I can assist them and it’s appropriate, I do.”

Even so, most cases that end up on Shiller’s desk at the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, located on the 11th floor of the Guy-Metro (GM) Building, can be resolved informally; in other words, without a formal complaint being lodged and without a hearing or formal investigation taking place. Often visitors are simply seeking advice and tools on how to deal with a situation themselves.

On occasion, however, a visitor to the office may request that someone intervene on their behalf. In this case, Shiller will either act as a mediator herself, or she will enlist the help of someone who should be involved with the case to help.

If she has to intervene on behalf of a member of the university, Shiller always steadfastly maintains impartiality, giving people from both sides of a conflict equal time to provide their side of the story..

As is stated in the code, “All members of the university … may reasonably expect to pursue their work, studies and other activities related to university life in a safe and civil environment.” Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities exists to ensure that this fundamental right enjoyed by each and every student, staff and faculty member at the university is protected.

Related links:
•    Code of Rights and Responsibilities 
•    Office of Rights and Responsibilities 
•    Ombuds Office 

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