Dean of Students suspends plans for involuntary leave policy

The Office of the Dean of Students announced on Sept. 22 that it would suspend the proposed involuntary leave policy released to the public the week before. The policy, which received immediate opposition from student groups, would have allowed McGill to involuntarily remove students from the school if they were deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Although involuntary leave policies have been met with concerns that vulnerable students may be deprived of essential mental health care services, other Canadian universities, such as Concordia University and the University of Toronto, have instituted similar policies. In response to these concerns, Dean of Students Christopher Buddle, decided to reconsider the implementation of the policy. 

“I decided that I need to pull back completely from a policy and actually have some brainstorming sessions [and have] more of a co-creation with students to try and see if there is an alternative model to the involuntary leave policy,” Buddle said. “I don’t want to rush it through, there’s no reason to if students are unhappy with its current form.” 

Frustration with this policy comes largely from many McGill students who believe that the university does not provide its student body with sufficient psychiatric resources, and that support for those struggling with mental health is not prioritized. Madeline Wilson, Students’ Society of McGill University Vice-President University Affairs, expressed her concerns to The McGill Tribune

“I think that there are exceptions to be made, but I think that by and large, […] it was not clear that [the policy] was in the best interests of the community,” Wilson said. “It seemed like it was in the best interests of McGill.”

Rine Vieth, a PhD student in anthropology and advocate for mental health care services at McGill, said that the policy should not be a replacement for adequate mental health services on campus.

“I would love for more clinical care to be available,” Vieth said. “I would love for [the Office of Students with Disabilities] to receive more funding so [that] they would be able to work with more students who need [help]. It might just be a little thing, but that little [help] might stop a crisis from happening down the line.”

According to the policy draft, which has since been removed from the Dean of Students’ website, students posing a severe threat to the security of others would be placed on leave from McGill at the discretion of a case management team of members of the McGill community, and the deputy provost on a case by case basis. 

In addition to her concerns about the effects that this policy would have on the support available for students in crisis,  Wilson noted the lack of student input in the creation of this draft.

“Policies that govern students should be created with students, not created for two years behind the scenes and then brought to students for consultation the month before it’s supposed to be brought to the Senate,” Wilson said. 

In a statement released by the Office of the Dean of Students,  Buddle stated he plans to work on addressing the concerns surrounding the policy throughout the coming academic year. 

“[From] the feedback I’ve got, clearly it’s not the time, it’s not right,” said Buddle. “We’ll stop, rethink, regroup and take a longer view.”

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