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March 22, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

OUSA will swallow the CoC


Relations down south are on the mend

The OUSA exec has voted to drop their appeal against the 2009 High Court judgment which ruled that the University Code of Conduct (CoC) applies outside of the university.

The exec’s decision to drop the appeal comes after much discussion with the University Council, which has held out promises of a more convivial relationship between OUSA and the university.

OUSA President Harriet Geoghegan says the appeal was never a definite decision. “We were given a 30-day window to lodge an appeal, and the executive resolved that it’s better to lodge it and then look into it later and then withdraw it if we don’t want to appeal.”

Although Geoghegan now thinks that having a CoC is a good idea overall, she still has her reservations. “As much as I was happy with the High Court judgement in terms of the fact it gave some legal clarification which we didn’t have before, it’s a bit disappointing that it’s still too open, and that it’s a case-by-case thing.” According to the judgement, the CoC applies only if the incident has a sufficient nexus to the university, and would bring the university’s reputation into disrepute. Geoghegan says that this definition is still not a clear precedent. “The difficult thing is that it’s defined by what brings the university’s reputation into disrepute, and then it becomes defined by if things blow up in the media.”

In addition, Geoghegan is concerned about the lack of student representation on the appeals board. “The main thing we are concerned with is that students are excluded from the appeals board.” The lack of student representation was one of the main reasons why OUSA took the university to court in the first place.

However, Geoghegan says there are two major benefits to dropping the appeal.

Firstly, the relationship between OUSA and the University has been damaged by the court proceedings, something that the two parties can now seek to rectify. In the light of recent political developments, Geoghegan says “We need to start working with the university to make sure we’re getting the best outcomes for the students. It’s a total disservice to the students if we’re still stuck on all this stuff with the Code of Conduct.”

Secondly, Geoghegan believes there are other ways to achieve student representation on the appeals board outside of court, such as through negotiation.

The university’s main reason for refusing to allow a student representative on the appeals board was due to conflict of interest. The alleged conflict of interest is due to a motion that was passed in 2008, which stated “that OUSA opposes the Code of Conduct”. Therefore, Geoghegan says, the next step is educating students and getting them to overturn the motion so that it reflects the reality that the code applies, and so that students can be represented on the board. “It’s not about bowing down to the university and rescinding the motion totally, it’s about getting something that reflects that we want to work with the university to get the best outcomes for the students and to be fair.”


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