91. Protocol for Urgent Cases of Disruptive, Threatening or Violent Conduct

Note from the University Secretariat: The Post-Secondary Learning Act gives General Faculties Council (GFC) responsibility, subject to the authority of the Board of Governors, over "academic affairs" (section 26(1)) and "general supervision of student affairs" (section 31). GFC has thus enacted a policy concerning the Protocol for Urgent Cases of Disruptive, Threatening or Violent Conduct, as set out below.

The complete wording of the section(s) of the Post-Secondary Learning Act, as referred to above, and any other related sections, should be checked in any instance where formal jurisdiction or delegation needs to be determined.

Note from the University Secretariat: The Protocol was originally received for information by the GFC Executive Committee in 1997 (March 10, 1997, Minute 26).

Please note that the GFC Executive Committee endorsed the attached policy on April 6, 2004. The Board Human Resources and Compensation Committee (BHRCC) will review the policy for final approval on May 5, 2004.

As an institution of higher learning, the University is devoted, in major part, to debate, difference of opinion, criticism, and the careful public weighing of ideas and actions. The University recognizes that faculty, staff, and students have academic freedom to discuss controversial ideas. Nothing in this protocol shall be construed to prohibit peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, or lawful picketing, or to inhibit free speech. However, the privilege of academic freedom is accompanied by the responsibility to respect the individual rights of every person.

This protocol provides a guide for dealing with conduct which is, or has the potential to be, disruptive, threatening or violent, that is to say, conduct which goes beyond the discussion of controversial ideas. Unfortunately, as events at a number of universities have shown, staff, students and visitors are capable of inflicting great harm on others in their community. In the absence of a process for dealing with the problem, warning signs of serious conflict and the potential for violence may be missed. If appropriate and timely attention can be given to such problems, dangerous and/or life threatening situations may be prevented.

The primary purpose of the protocol is to protect and ensure the safety of people and property within the University community. The protocol provides a means by which serious incidents that have occurred or pose an imminent threat can be handled expeditiously. It applies to conduct by any member of the University of Alberta community or members of the public that occurs on University property or in connection with University-related functions. The protocol is not intended to cover major emergencies, such as fires, explosions or chemical spills, which are handled by Physical Plant (see Disaster Recovery Plan).

91.1 Basic Principles

Serious incidents of disruptive, threatening or violent conduct are rarely single-issue, single-answer phenomena. They generally have a broad impact across the University, and require a variety of interventions. This protocol is intended to ensure that the management of such cases is effective and well coordinated across the University, in the following manner:

a. It provides for a Coordinator with the authority to organize an effective response to incidents and cases.

b. It ensures that senior administrators are kept appropriately informed of developments in every case.

The following protocol is designed to ensure responsibility for decision-making is vested in the hands of the appropriate managers. At the same time, it builds in special support and expertise for managers who may require assistance in resolving incidents. Further, the protocol ensures all decision-making is closely coordinated, and information about developments is appropriately channelled. Finally, the protocol builds in a reporting and review process to ensure both accountability and the ongoing refinement of case management strategies. The Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) is responsible for ensuring the protocol is revised and updated as needed.

91.2 Definitions

Disruptive conduct is defined as: disturbing or otherwise interfering by action, words, written material or by any means whatsoever to the extent that normal University-related functions cannot proceed.

Threatening or violent conduct is defined as:

i. assaulting another person; or

ii. threatening another person or group of persons with bodily harm or causing another person or group of persons to have reasonable grounds to fear bodily harm; or

iii. creating, perpetuating, or threatening to create, a condition which unnecessarily endangers or threatens the health, safety or well-being of another person or group of persons or causes or threatens to cause the damage or destruction of property. 

Members of the University community include, among others: students, academic and non-academic staff, sessional staff, fellows, post-doctoral fellows, emeriti, visiting academics, and volunteer staff.

University-related functions include, but are not limited to: activities occurring in the course of work or study assignments inside or outside the University; at work or study-related conferences or training sessions; during work or study-related travel; during events such as public lectures, performances, social or sports activities; or over the telephone or computer.

Protocol is the set of procedures which set out the response to disruptive, threatening or violent conduct.

Coordinator is the person responsible for coordinating the response set out in the protocol.

91.3 The Protocol

1. Reporting disruptive, threatening or violent conduct

1.1 Members of the University community who are faced with an urgent situation involving disruptive, threatening or violent conduct, where there is reasonable cause to believe that the safety of persons may be threatened, should immediately contact Campus Security Services. Campus Security Services shall take whatever immediate action is necessary to secure the safety of persons, and shall alert the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic). Once the immediate emergency has been dealt with by Campus Security Services, the protocol detailed below will be followed.

1.2 If there is no immediate emergency but there is reasonable cause to believe that there is potential for the safety or security of the community to be threatened or for disruption of the work or study environment, either Campus Security Services or the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) may be contacted. Potential threats during non-business hours should be reported directly to Campus Security Services. Campus Security Services shall in all cases alert the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic).

1.3 The Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) will consult with other University administrators or offices as needed. In situations involving the confidentiality of the Universal Student Ratings of Instruction any decision whether to breach confidentiality or not must include consultation with the Students' Union in the case of undergraduate students and the Graduate Students' Association in the case of graduate students.

1.4 In cases where disruptive, threatening or violent conduct of a member of the University community occurs outside University property (e.g., a school, hospital, etc), Campus Security Services and/or the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) may inform and consult with the appropriate authorities.

2. Decision to implement the protocol

2.1 The Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) may receive a report of disruptive, threatening or violent conduct directly from the person(s) involved in the incident, from Campus Security Services, or via a third party who has become aware of the situation, for example, a supervisor, a professor, a Chair or Dean, a Student Ombudsperson, etc. The Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) will obtain as much information as necessary to make a preliminary assessment of the situation. If this assessment clearly indicates that a team action is not required, the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) may refer the matter elsewhere as appropriate.

2.2 If there has been an incident of disruptive, threatening or violent conduct or there are reasonable grounds to believe that such conduct is likely to occur in the work or study environment, a Vice-Provost or designate will serve as Coordinator and will implement the Protocol by immediately appointing a case management team and convening a meeting of the team.

3. Role of the Coordinator

This protocol is implemented by the Coordinator, whose function is to coordinate the work of an ad-hoc case management team. The Coordinator's role is one of organization, facilitation and decision-making. The Coordinator has the authority to convene meetings, manage internal communications, maintain records and follow-up on decisions of the team. The primary responsibilities of the Coordinator are to:

a. bring together the authorities who must be involved in decisions, together with experts, where necessary, to manage the case;
b. centralize internal and external communication;
c. take whatever immediate action is necessary should the situation become urgent during the course of the case management team's work;
d. ensure that the victim(s), if any, and the members of the community who are affected by the incident are supported, consulted where appropriate and kept informed of developments in the case;
e. ensure follow-up of decisions;
f. maintain case records, and ensure the appropriate University authorities are informed of developments;
g. convene de-briefing sessions (see Section 10);
h. prepare a brief report for the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) summarizing the case (See Section 11).

4. Composition of the case management team

4.1 The Coordinator shall convene a team that will include the Director of Campus Security Services and other individuals who possess required skills given the specific situation, such as expertise in human rights, drug and alcohol abuse, public affairs, crisis management, or alternative dispute resolution techniques. If the conduct of a student is the source of concern, the Dean of Students will be a member of the team. If the conduct of a post-doctoral fellow is the source of concern, the Dean or delegate of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR), in consultation with the Vice-President (Research), will be a member of the team. If the conduct of an academic staff member is the source of concern, a member of Academic Staff Administration in the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) will join the team. If the conduct of a non-academic staff member is the source of concern, the Vice-President (Finance and Administration) or delegate will be a team member. To ensure that issues of authority do not hinder the team in carrying out their work, this Protocol establishes the Coordinator as the ultimate authority for decisions when the team is engaged in critical stages of a situation.

The other team members may be chosen from the following list:

Authorities responsible for the Faculty or unit of the individual whose behavior is of concern
Members of the Faculty or unit of the individual whose behavior is of concern
Managers of other units where the incident has had, or has the potential to have, a serious impact upon unit members
Chaplain
Residence Services
Human Resources Group, Employee Relations
Health Promotion and Worklife Services
Public Affairs
Physical Plant
Student Counselling Services
University Health Services (physician, psychiatrist)
Other experts or authorities inside or outside the University community

4.2 Those who are requested to participate as members of the team shall accord such requests the highest priority.

4.3 The Office of Human Rights, Student OmbudService or a Student Advisor may serve as advisors to the team as appropriate.

4.4 The Academic Staff Association or the Non-Academic Staff Association will be informed as appropriate.

5. Action

The case management team will meet as soon as possible after being appointed by the Coordinator. The team will reasonably assess the situation and will endeavour to formulate a response proportionate to the degree of threat or perceived threat. Normally, decisions made by the team will be by consensus. The team has the authority to carry out some or all of the following actions stated below, in whatever order is appropriate and depending upon the nature of the situation. Without limiting any of the actions listed below, the team has the plenary power to exclude from campus any and all members of the University community who have been involved in a violent or disruptive incident, including those who refuse to cooperate with the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) or Campus Security Services.

a. Determine what facts are known, what information is still needed, and how such information may be obtained.
b. Start a case log detailing facts and recording all decisions.
c. Determine whether any further special expertise is required.
d. Consult legal, medical, psychological or other experts as necessary.
e. Determine any immediate action to be taken with regard to any persons. This might include removal from the premises, filing of criminal charges, recommending disciplinary action, referral for medical/psychological care, security precautions, etc.
f. Arrange for support, care and follow-up of any victim(s). This might include medical/psychological care, temporary leave, security precautions, ensuring that employment or student status is not jeopardised, etc.
g. Arrange for internal communiques as necessary. The principle is to ensure the community at large and /or those most directly affected are given appropriate information about the facts, the action being taken, and how to get help if they are affected by the incident.
h Plan a media strategy and brief those affected on how to deal with media requests, should that be appropriate.
i. Arrange for critical incident stress de-briefing sessions for students/employees who may be affected, as needed.
j. Establish communication links for special aspects of the case.

The Provost or delegate shall:

1. Have access to student records held by a Faculty, Department or unit, the Discipline Office, the Office of the Registrar and Student Awards, or the University Secretariat in an instance where the Provost has invoked, or is considering invoking, the Protocol For Urgent Cases of Disruptive, Threatening or Violent Conduct (Section 91); (EXEC 03 MAY 2004) (BHRCC 05 MAY 2004)

2. Intervene in a case concerning the Code of Student Behaviour, Code of Applicant Behaviour, GFC Academic Appeals Policy or Practicum Placements, Professional Practice and the Public Interest in a case being heard, already heard, or about to be heard by the UAB, the GFC AAC, or the PRB in an instance where the Provost has invoked, or is considering invoking, the Protocol For Urgent Cases of Disruptive, Threatening or Violent Conduct (Section 91)." (EXEC 03 MAY 2004) (BHRCC 05 MAY 2004)

6. Follow-up

The team thereafter plans any further meetings and establishes responsibility among team members for the follow-up of decisions.

7. Files

All files relating to case management are confidential. In keeping with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP), files pertaining to a student, post-doctoral fellow, non-academic staff member or academic staff member are accessible to that individual. The Coordinator will maintain a case log containing the facts of the case and a record of all decisions and actions taken. The Coordinator will also keep copies of pertinent documents associated with the case (copies of Security reports, correspondence, etc.) These documents will constitute the case file, to be maintained in the office of the Coordinator for a minimum of two years.

8. Confidentiality

All deliberations under this protocol, including but not limited to deliberations of the case management team and any consultants, will be subject to strict confidentiality with regard to nominative information to the extent that a situation is not publicly reported in the media. Confidentiality will be maintained whether or not action under this protocol is implemented, and information will be disclosed on a need-to-know basis only. For example, where violence or threats are directed at or are likely to be directed to particular individuals or units, that information will be communicated to the individual or unit and to other appropriate authorities.

9. Response

Once the immediate situation is dealt with, a longer term resolution will be sought.

9.1 Where an academic or non-academic staff member or post doctoral fellow presents a continuing concern of disruptive, threatening or violent conduct towards the University community as a whole or any of its individual members, the matter shall be dealt with according to the provisions of the relevant collective agreement or other University policies or by taking appropriate legal action.

9.2 Where a student member presents a continuing concern of disruptive, threatening or violent conduct towards the University community as a whole or any of its individual members, the matter shall be dealt with according to the provisions of the Code of Student Behavior or other University policies or by taking appropriate legal action.

9.3 Where the individual presents a continuing concern of disruptive, threatening or violent conduct towards the University community as a whole or any of its individual members and is not a member of the University community, the matter shall be dealt with by recourse to the appropriate authorities.

10. Team de-briefing

The term de-briefing is used here in two ways. First, during the course of a particularly long or difficult case, the team is responsible for the ongoing assessment of its own performance. This helps to promote mutual support, identify problems and keep decision-making on track. Second, a final meeting will be held at the conclusion of a case, to identify any lessons learned and ensure individuals involved receive any help they might need to handle the stress or emotional impact of the case.

11. Reporting

Upon conclusion of a case, the Coordinator will prepare a brief report summarizing the case and submit it to the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) and in cases involving non-academic staff, to the Office of Vice-President (Finance and Administration). Interim reports should be submitted in a timely fashion if the case escalates to serious levels or is long and drawn-out. Copies of the reports should be sent only to team members. The reports should include any observations emanating from the de-briefing session and any recommendations for review or changes to policy or practice which the team wishes to make. These reports are the key to ensuring accountability in decision-making, consistency of response across different sectors of the University and the timely review of all policies and procedures regarding conduct.

At the option of the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) or the Office of the Vice-President (Finance/Administration), case reports may be reviewed by appropriate members of University Administration.

[Note from the University Secretariat: Please see Section 111.3D for cases involving Universal Student Ratings of Instruction (USRIs).]

(EXEC 10 MAR 1997) (EXEC 03 MAY 2004)
(GFC 28 FEB 2000)

(BHRCC 05 MAY 2004)

(EXEC 06 APR 2004)