Governing Council’s decision to delay the vote on the mandatory leave of absence policy is a small success for the student voice’s influence on administrative policy decisions. Still, the reconsideration on the part of Governing Council comes only after the passionately negative response from the university community.
The policy outlines a procedure of a mandatory leave of absence at the discretion of division heads and the Vice-Provost Students, which can be applied to students who, due to mental health issues, may put themselves or others at physical risk or cause detriment to their academics.
Though this policy is only meant to be enforced as a last resort, students and community members have been highly critical of its connotations. Critics have held that the policy is targeting sufferers of mental illness, that it may make it more difficult for students to conduct their studies, and that the policy does not explicitly include the involvement of medical professionals in any stage of the process.
The outlined policy exclusively affects students, and yet by the influx of outrage, including a petition against the policy, it is clear that the student populous was not adequately consulted before the policy’s conception. Consultations provide a wider scope of insight and influence policies that reflect the sentiments of students, in turn yielding well-rounded results. As this instance makes obvious, non-governing students have strong opinions on the university’s policies, and our administration needs to make greater efforts to reach voices beyond student governments in the future. This instance should serve as a lesson for the administration to strive for better community outreach.
Maia Harris is a first-year student at St. Michael’s College studying English and Political Science.