The University has passed an amendment to punish students off campus against the protests of the Students’ Union
The Student Conduct and Discipline Committee (SCDC) has caused controversy this summer by amending the University’s regulations on punishing students for misconduct, which is now applicable towards behaviour off campus.
The amendment alters the University’s definition of misconduct so that “a student may be liable for disciplinary action in respect of conduct that damages the University’s relationship or reputation with its local communities, as evidenced by substantiated complaints from residents, resident’s groups, local authority representatives or the police.”
Prior to amendment the University’s policy for misconduct applied nearly exclusively to students on campus and engaged in university activities, although exception was made for off campus behaviour where a student committed a criminal offence or behaved in a manner intimidating or threatening towards others.
The SCDC criticised this approach as out of line with other Russell Group universities, stating that “the University’s apparent lack of commitment to tackle serious off campus anti-social behaviour” undermined the good work and volunteering of those students positively engaged within the community.
However the amendment has been objected to by the Students’ Union who have said it is “misconceived and unsubstantiated.” Numerous arguments have been raised against the amendment by the Union, including that its drafting is extremely broad and its terminology uncertain; it being unclear what conduct the University will consider as damaging to its reputation.
On interpretation it is possible that criticism of the quality of University services and behaviour conducted at a student’s out-of-term address could potentially apply under this ruling.
Further, the Union have argued that the amendment is patronising to students and fails to recognise that students too are also victims of noise and anti-social behaviour, going against the University of Manchester’s ethos of “treating students as partners in a shared academic community.”
As such, “it is continuing to perpetuate a narrative that students cause damage to the community by virtue of simply being students,” and will “inevitably only increase tension and division between residents within the local community.”
Although in their recommendation the SCDC stressed that only the most severe off campus anti-social behaviour would be referred to a University student disciplinary body, the Students’ Union is currently working with the University on an alternative approach.
General Secretary of the Student Union Charlotte Cook said “the Students’ Union was very disappointed that the Off Campus Discipline policy passed at Senate. Students bring great things to this city and it is important to us that their autonomy as citizens and community members, outside of their academic identity, is protected.
“Despite the policy passing we are now working with the University to create a partnership Community Engagement Strategy to improve relations within the community, with an end goal of repealing the policy.”