A bully is “a person who uses strength or power to charm or intimidate others who are weaker. ” So, whether destroying property or someone’s reputation, let’s call the Fanshaw St. Patrick’s Day riot what it is at its core — an extreme form of bullying.
Yet, one of the first articles I read on the topic had a thread of comments, from what sounded like students, openly complaining that the college president had no “right” to suspend anyone because the riot did not happen on school property — that it was solely a police matter.
What ever happened to personal responsibility and integrity? Why does everything have to come down to the perpetrators’ “rights?” What about the rights of others? Next thing you know we’ll be hearing that one of those kicked out of Fanshaw will claim their suspension violates their human rights and either go to the Ontario Human Rights Commission or sue the college for wrongful suspension. And, if they actually won, what message would that send?
Thankfully, nowever, as the days have gone on since the riot, most people agree that it was correct that the local police have made a minimum of thirteen arrests and that eight Fanshaw students received suspensions. Interestingly, other colleges piped up soon after the dust settled (literally) to say their institutions had rules about such behaviour as well (e.g., Sault College and Algoma University).
The reality is that society is very different from what it used to be. Publicly funded universities and colleges can be located anywhere. And, thanks to unnamed entrepreneurs who buy up property for the sole purpose of renting to students, even when bylaws forbid it, those students usually live near the colleges. That reality, unfortunately, is not just a problem for Fanshaw.
In St. Catharines, for example, a formerly very lovely community has gradually become ugly because of the “Brock Houses.” In neighbourhoods wherever there is a Niagara College campus, it is similar. Municipal governments and non-student residents spend a great deal of time, energy and money trying to get the school in question to do something, anything to stop property values from plummeting. Yet, legally, what can the schools do apart from asking the municipality to enforce by-law infractions?
Well, we now know that students can besuspended for breaking rules beyond a school’s property. So, just remember that whether the Fanshaw students were vandals or bullies, there needs to be “a zero tolerance” policy regarding post-secondary students and regulations or legislation in place much like the Mike Harris Safe Schools Act (which the McGuinty government undid by the way saying expulsions should be the last resort).
Update (1): Police have now named those charged. Some, however, who joined in, were only 15 and can’t be named under the Young Offenders Act.
Update (2): I used the word suspended and expelled interchangeably at first because that is the way it was when I was teaching secondary school. However, as a regular commenter pointed out, the Fanshaw students are not expelled yet, just suspended. So, I made the applicable corrections in text. However, it appears that Fanshaw administration is considering how they might make the suspensions permanent expulsions.