February 22, 2005

Front–page Boar

Apparently the Union are pissed off that the University won't let students do something that is against the law. Is this really what our Union is for?

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  1. I agree. Also, the Union were asking for a written warning for a first offence before students are thrown out of halls. Doesn't this already exist? I'm sure that before I was allowed to live on campus I had to sign a specific form that warned me of the consequences of smoking cannabis in halls.

    22 Feb 2005, 15:52

  2. The Union (through the Sabbs) is there to do what its members tell it, and they told it to campaign on this issue. Also, can I ask if you have actually read the Union's policy on Cannabis use?

    22 Feb 2005, 17:28

  3. First of all, has there actually been a referendum about the Union campaigning on this issue, apart from voting the President in? I certainly don't recall one and I can't find any evidence of one. Are you saying that because the majority of voters voted the President in, that they agree with all of his manifesto points? Or that the opinions of the people present at a Union Council meeting fairly represents the opinions of the members of the Union?

    Secondly, I have indeed read the Union's policy on this issue. I agree, two weeks is not a very long time to go looking for accommodation elsewhere, amid one's course etc. (On this point I would take the facetious view that if they have enough time to sit around smoking cannabis then they should have enough time in two weeks to go and look for off-campus accommodation). As Dave hints above, the tenant will already have signed a contract saying that this will happen, as it states, as a last resort. Is it then not up to the University to decide whether the particular person who has "a drug-related [sic] problem" is beyond assistance or not, and if they decide that they should be turfed out, so be it? And is this 'assistance' not treated confidentially? I believe it to be entirely reasonable.

    22 Feb 2005, 18:29

  4. James, the Union's policy on Cannabis in halls was passed at a General Meeting last term attended by 337 students. It's policy 582 and it basically does four things:

    1.To mandate the President and the Campaigns Committee to lead a campaign to change the present University policy of automatically excluding cannabis users from halls of residence.
    2.To take legal advice on the Universityís current policy and, if possible and appropriate, pursue a course of legal action against them.
    3.To demand that the University notify the Welfare and Equal Opportunities Officer of any exclusion from halls based on cannabis possession.
    4.To demand that the University informs any student facing being thrown off campus of the welfare and support services available to them as well as their right to receive representation from the Studentsí Union.

    I personally find that perfectly reasonable, but even if I didn't I'd still expect the Sabbs to do as they had been told, otherwise what's the point?

    22 Feb 2005, 18:42

  5. Now that we're on first name terms, Luke, your quotation from the "This Union Resolves:" part of the policy is indeed very accurate. I'm glad we've established what it is we're talking about. It is the step of the logic preceding that section that I am challenging – the "This Union Believes:" bit. Do the Union's members really believe what is stated there?

    22 Feb 2005, 18:52

  6. James, 'Union Believes' is merely preamble – the Union could have a policy saying 'this Union believes that black is white' and it would have the same effectiveness. As for the specific instance of this policy, the 'Believes' clauses seem reasonable enough to me, especially in the context of the rest of the policy, and they didn't seem to exercise many people at the meeting, which passed the policy by a massive majority. The reason our policies are constructed the way they are is, if I understand correctly, so that it is possible to tell not only what the Union's position on an issue is, but why. However, Union policies are only binding on Union members in as much as they are obliged to remain within the limits of policy if they are using Union facilities; it is the Union as a whole which notes, believes, or resolves as the case may be.

    22 Feb 2005, 19:02

  7. The policies outlined in 'This Union resolves' have to be based on the assumptions in 'This Union believes'. All I am saying is that the students of this University may not be "saying with an almost unanimous voice, that their [the University's] policy is draconian and incredibly outdated". Personally, I love the way the Boar write "almost".

    The other worrying thing is, Kat Stark is reported to have said "they [the University] are repeatedly imposing a devastating punishment upon students with no regard for their welfare". The interesting words here are "repeatedly", "devastating" and "no".

    22 Feb 2005, 20:07

  8. I think we should get back to the fact that cannibis use is technically illegal. Surely the Union should not be putting pressure on the University to be more lenient on people who are breaking the law?

    22 Feb 2005, 20:12

  9. James, if the students of the University passed that policy by 227 votes to 83, I think they may possibly have been trying to send a message of some sort to the powers that be. As for the Boar story, I wouldn't worry. Compared to some things they've said in the past it's pretty tame – at least it's accurate. Also, I don't quite see why you're worried about what Kat Stark said.

    Felicity, lots of things are technically illegal, including recording and keeping programmes off the TV and calling for the abolition of the monarchy – should the University throw people off campus for that? Anyway, the University, in spite of any pretensions to the contrary, is not a law-enforcement body; if anyone is to punish people for smoking Cannabis it should be the courts. Yes, the University does have a duty to prevent their premesies being used for illegal purposes, but when was the last time you heard of someone being prosecuted solely for smoking weed? I've heard that the police let the University deal with pot-smokers because they impose far harsher punishments. Anyway, as I said before, 'the Union' doesn't have a great deal of choice as to whether they apply pressure or not – they are mandated to do so by a policy passed by an overwhelming majority at the largest General Meeting since 2000. I would be far more concerned if they weren't campaigning on this issue.

    22 Feb 2005, 20:53

  10. I appreciate that the University is harsher on cannabis smokers than the police are. I never said that the University should be harsher. All I am saying is that the University should not be seen to be condoning an illegal activity, which they would effectively be if they allowed it to go unpunished. It would be possible for the University to ignore the problem, as they ignore illegal file sharing by pretending not to know of its existence, except that they already have a system in place to deal with people who are caught smoking cannabis, so any relaxation of this would be seen to be a condonement of cannabis use.

    22 Feb 2005, 21:22

  11. Also I agree with David Sait that everyone who lives on campus is warned of the rule, so should live with the consequences if they break the rules that they agreed to by living in halls. I don't agree with the argument that people should be allowed a second chance because they may be naive freshers. If they are stupid enough to make that mistake then they shouldn't be at this university. It's no good saying that they may not have realised it was punishable in this way. As far as I am aware ignorance of the law is no defence in a court of law, so should not be here.

    22 Feb 2005, 21:30

  12. Felicity, all the Union is campaigning for is for students not to be summarily thrown out of halls for a first offence, this doesn't seem unreasonable to me. Also, if people can be trusted not to be 'naÔve freshers' in smoking Cannabis in the first place, surely they can also be trusted not to see a softening in the University's stance as condoning the use of Cannabis. You can't argue that people should be treated like adults when it suits the University to punish them, but then treated like kids in not being able to detect when they're being given a second chance.

    22 Feb 2005, 21:43

  13. I'm of the opinion that whoever gets caught under the University's current policy is very lucky to be allowed to continue on their course. You might think this a little strict, but I think it is entirely reasonable: anyone who breaks the rules that are laid down at the start of their time at University (or the law of the country) isn't taking their course as seriously as they should be.

    22 Feb 2005, 22:53

  14. James, whatever the rights and wrongs of your beliefs, I can't imagine the University doing something which would potentially lose it so much money and contribute to the drop-out rate to such a great degree.

    22 Feb 2005, 23:01

  15. The University would lose absolutely no money at all. Those places would be filled the following year.

    22 Feb 2005, 23:05

  16. Yes, but there are only a certain number of places in each year and they can't refill ones vacated by people who have been thrown out.

    22 Feb 2005, 23:11

  17. For once I agree with you Luke, the University would not want to increase the drop-out rate. But I don't understand why there are so many people willing to jeopardise their University careers. I quote from the Boar from a fresher who had to leave halls:

    "The last two weeks of my life have been hell and it's had a negative effect on my University work."

    Then don't do it! You have no one to blame but yourself for this happening. Why does anyone feel they need drugs to make their life more interesting? (Incidentally I feel the same way about alcohol before you say anything about that being a drug too.)

    22 Feb 2005, 23:12

  18. Felicity, I don't know why people do it, there must be a reason though. And there is the question of why people should be allowed to stay on campus even if they get totally wrecked on alcohol all the time but get thrown off for smoking Cannabis once.

    22 Feb 2005, 23:18

  19. They still don't lose any money over it. Besides, how many people are we actually talking about here? Are there that many stupid people?! Surely if there are that many people, the University, for the sake of their reputation more than anything else, would be trying to clamp down on it as much as possible? I take it you are for trying to minimise the use of cannabis on campus?

    22 Feb 2005, 23:19

  20. I don't think they should be allowed to stay on campus if they get wrecked on alcohol. I think that that is equally stupid and that students who are accepted to this University should have more sense.

    22 Feb 2005, 23:22

  21. James, if the university kick out a fresher, they not only lose that fresher's fees and associated other costs for the rest of the year, but also for all subsequent years of the course. That fresher also appears on the statistics of people who start their courses but don't finish them. As for whether the Univeristy should try to minimise Cannabis use on campus, in an ideal world it would only become an issue if someone complained; as it is, people should certainly have it pointed out to them the risk they run in smoking Cannabis on campus, but jumping straight in at the deep end and evicting them with only a fortnight's notice is hardly going to do anyone any good, is it?

    Felicity, the problem is that intelligence and sense don't necessarily go hand-in-hand, but to punish someone for one indiscretion when they are spreading their wings for the first time is overly harsh in my opinion. I would bet that anyone who was caught and simply administered a warning would be extremely unlikely to be caught again.

    22 Feb 2005, 23:45

  22. If they kick someone out they do not necessarily refund tuition fees. Read the terms and conditions. And I'm still not convinced that kicking someone off a course would go down as a "drop-out". It would make sense, but statistics these days – you never know…

    23 Feb 2005, 08:49

  23. All very interesting stuff…

    I disagree with the stance that "taking drugs is stupid and stupid people shouldn't be here" though. I think that is quite short-sighted. After all, there are lots of famous scientists who were/are famous for using drugs as hard as LSD during their theorem-writing days… Feynman and Freud to name but two…

    I am very much of the opinion that people at university are adults, and that they should be allowed to make their own mistakes to a point. Smoking weed is not going to kill anyone, unless they're stupid enough to a) get really crap stuff, b) smoke enough to fill a small suitcase in one go. I think the university has a responsibility to point out the potential harm (although, yes, the same argument can be applied to the legal drugs such as nicotene and alcohol) but should not treat them like children and chuck them off campus straight away. This kind of experience is perfect for breeding "retaliation behaviour" or whatever its proper name is, where they are more likely to continue because they've had it rammed fown their throats how bad for them it is.

    And hey – we all download stuff of DC++ and Kazaa, and that's illegal…


    23 Feb 2005, 10:47

  24. I'm not necessarily saying that the taking of the drugs is the stupid thing. I'm saying that breaking the University's rules about it then wondering why they have to suffer the consequences is particularly stupid. That's all.

    23 Feb 2005, 11:07

  25. Felicity (can;t sign in on crappy maths computers...)

    Ok, so my arguments started getting less well argued as the evening progressed. But I still think that people must be dull if they have to take drugs to make their life more interesting.

    23 Feb 2005, 11:08

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