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March 31, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Picket Signs and Dicks Online

Students’ abilities to protest could be curtailed under a new University Student Conduct Statute.

The proposed Statute includes new regulation on student activity on social media, as well as a provision that VUWSA says could limit students’ ability to protest.

The Student Conduct Statute outlines what the University considers unacceptable student behaviour, and the sanctions the University can apply to students who break these rules. The latest draft of the Statute was received by the Academic Committee on Wednesday 26 March.

Clause 20 in the draft Statute prohibits students from “behaving in any way, without reasonable cause, which brings or is likely to bring the University into disrepute.”

VUWSA proposed the clause be amended to permit potentially disreputable student behaviour if the behaviour was “in the exercise of academic, civil or political freedom.”

The Committee rejected VUWSA’s proposal on the grounds that the existing clause adequately covered the rights of students wanting to protest.

Rāwinia Thompson, VUWSA’s Academic Vice-President, criticised this decision.

“[The clause] could be open to interpretation which is unfavourable and could result in unjust outcomes,” Thompson said.

A second alteration was to university regulation of student conduct on social media. The Student Conduct Statute has not previously regulated social media.

The new clause would prohibit students from “threatening, or repeatedly or excessively insulting, any other person, directly or through the use of social media.”

Thompson said it was unclear which online forums the University has jurisdiction over, and what the definition of bullying was.

“We would never want it to get to a point where it could be interpreted in a way which would mean a student was punished for something that was inadvertent,” Thompson said.

Yvonne Oldfield, Student Interest and Disputes Resolution Adviser, said that all students are expected to refrain from abusive behaviour, online or otherwise, and that such behaviour would continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Review of University policy happens roughly every seven years. Having gone through Academic Committee, the draft will be sent to the Academic Board in April for approval and then the University Council in May for final approval before it is implemented.

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