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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Discipline in Hall - survey feedback

82 per cent of respondents to our survey last week were either satisfied (29 per cent) or very satisfied (53 per cent) with the rules and enforcement of discipline at Connaught Hall. Of those who wrote comments, eight people said we have got things about right; seven people said we are too strict; and three people said we should be more strict (mentioning noise and smoking problems).

I have some perspective to add to this. In the first eight weeks of this first term of 2014-15, I have chaired more disciplinary meetings than I did in the whole of the last academic year. I do not yet understand why we are facing so many disciplinary issues this year.

So far this year, I have dealt with 21 disciplinary cases in eight weeks. That is extraordinary. I have never started a year like this before.

Discipline isn't why I do this job. No one enjoys the experience of a disciplinary interview - on either side of the table. And it's time-consuming. I should much rather spend my limited "Warden" time providing welfare support, promoting wellness initiatives, organising events, working with your elected Residents' Club Committee, and improving the social and community aspects of our Hall. 

But sadly, this year, I am spending nearly all my time on disciplinary investigations, letters, meetings, and administration of fines, etc. That detracts from the service I can provide to everyone else.

In general, I dislike financial penalties. In contrast to what happens in many other halls of residence, my practice has always been to arrange a face-to-face meeting with anyone who is alleged to have done anything more than the most minor infringement of the rules. That way, I can help people understand what the rules are and why we have them, give them a chance to explain themselves, and usually avoid imposing a fine. But I cannot keep this practice up this year, with so many relatively serious cases of misconduct. 

So it is with regret that I am implementing a policy of summary penalties for the following offences, with effect from midnight tonight (13 November 2014). If a senior member or staff member personally witnesses one of these offences, the penalty will automatically be applied in writing, without a disciplinary meeting being convened.



Offence
1st incident
2nd incident
3rd incident
Covering a smoke detector
£100 fine and final warning
Expulsion from the Hall
N/A
Smoking inside the building
£50 fine and written warning
£100 fine and final warning
Expulsion from the Hall
Smoking in other prohibited area
£25 fine and written warning
£50 fine and second written warning
£100 fine and final warning
Access to first-floor balcony
£75 fine and written warning
£150 fine and final written warning
Expulsion from the Hall
Access to other roof or ledge on the Hall exterior
£100 fine and final warning
Expulsion from the Hall
N/A
Having an open container of alcohol not bought from the bar inside the bar, Bell room, or garden when the bar is open
£25 fine and written warning
£50 fine and second written warning
£100 fine and final warning


You will note these are all offences that are very clear-cut: either you were seen doing it or you were not. Other complaints, like noise, bullying, and harassment are more subjective and I will continue to meet with people who are alleged to have broken those rules. We have to be fair, so if you receive a fine under this policy and you dispute the material facts of what happened, you will be able to request a meeting with me. If you are still unhappy with the penalty, then you have a right of appeal as set out in the Student Disciplinary Procedure: http://www.connaught-hall.org.uk/documents/Handbooks/Intercollegiate-Halls-Student-Disciplinary-Procedure-2014.pdf.

My primary hope is that this policy will act as a deterrent so that I do not issue even one fine under this scheme. But at worst, it will reduce the amount of time I spend on disciplinary matters, so I can concentrate on improving other aspects of your experience in Hall.

In addition to this policy of automatic fines, we are upgrading the signage around the building that tell you where smoking is allowed / prohibited, reminds you not to go onto the balconies, and other pointers to help ensure no one breaks the rules out of ignorance of what the rules actually are. 

The best outcome would be that we get to the end of the academic year without any of these fines being issued. You can help me: make sure you know what the rules are, observe them yourself, and if you see your friends doing something they shouldn't, tell them to stop it. I should much prefer that the Hall community police itself and that I never have to invoke the Student Disciplinary Procedure for anyone.