The next most common charge brought against students is to do with the consumption of alcohol. The university has strict policies regarding alcohol that not all students are fully aware of. Buabeng-Baidoo gives three examples of situations which can see students having charges brought against them. Publicly, “when you act in an indecent manner, you can actually be prosecuted by the university because you exist in a res or university setting in your capacity as a university student,” says Buabeng-Baidoo. Those that enjoy their drinks at Aandklas on a Thursday night need not fear that their private social time is being invaded upon. Where the issue comes in, according to Buabeng-Baidoo, is when an inebriated student causes chaos in a public area, such as attacking another student or returning to campus and defacing Tuks property.
The other two circumstances related to alcohol consumption are when “student societies provide alcohol outside of certain stipulated areas. So, [the organisation] either don’t have a liquor license to provide it… [or] they sell it to students that are underage,” or when students are “just walking around with alcohol in general. You can only drink in designated areas, so you can’t take your drink outside of Oom Gert’s,” explains Buabeng-Baidoo.
According to the SDAP, breaking residence policy is also a common misdemeanour. The majority of cases in this area are the hosting of squatters or giving entrance to people who do not live in the residence. Many students don’t know that action can be taken against them by security guards or other students.
When a student faces disciplinary action there are several events that may occur. According to the office of the registrar, any alleged student misconduct case that is brought to the university’s attention is followed by a preliminary investigation. A decision is then made on whether to pursue the matter further in terms of the Student Disciplinary Code and Procedure.
Depending on the nature and the severity of the alleged misconduct, the university may take temporary disciplinary steps pending a full disciplinary investigation. The guiding principle of discipline is that the punishment for unacceptable conduct must be appropriate given the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the transgression. For this reason, the Student Disciplinary Code and codes of conduct of the university provide different disciplinary processes. These range from different forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation, facilitation and conciliation, to various corrective measures such as suspension and expulsion. “Insofar as the university’s own disciplinary process is concerned, it is important to keep in mind that the aim of the process at the university is educational: to assist students to become well-adjusted citizens, able to make responsible choices and pursue their goals by doing the right thing and [being] willing to take responsibility for their actions,” says Nicolize Mulder, media liaison for UP.
According to Moyosola Joluolu, the public relations officer of the SDAP, students who are suspected of unacceptable conduct may be offered a settlement by the university. This requires them to plead guilty to the charge on the basis that they will be offered a more lenient punishment. Should the student reject the settlement, a disciplinary hearing will be held.
The SDAP are a group of law students that are available to assist students facing disciplinary action. They may not provide the legal advice of a lawyer, as they are still students, but they can advise them with their knowledge of the law and the experience of how the university handles disciplinary hearings.
Many cases are extremely difficult to prove. Students are often unaware that according to the doctrine of the onus of proof, the university has to prove that you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The SDAP will advise you as to how to gather evidence for your case and how the procedures of the hearing will run. “We lay all your options before you and then you have to make the decision,” explains Buabeng-Baidoo.
Photo: Kaylyn O’Brien