June 20, 2021

Public universities leave behind pre-constitutional discipline regulations after almost 70 years

The Council of Ministers approved the University Coexistence Law on Tuesday, a new norm to provide, only to public universities, a common framework for conflict resolution and disciplinary procedures for various offenses, from the most serious ones such as harassment. sexual harassment, hazing or plagiarism of final papers or thesis, minor such as cheating on an exam or sneaking into a university facility without authorization.

A Francoist decree still regulates student discipline in universities

A Francoist decree still regulates student discipline in universities

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The Ombudsman had already addressed in the years 1990, 2008 and 2012, the need to address the repeal of a rule enacted during the Franco dictatorship that remains in force since 1954: the Rules of Academic Discipline. That law focused on the sanction of offenses, while this law does so on the exercise of freedoms and fundamental rights of all the people who make up the university community; although as regards the sanctioning regime, it is only applicable to the student body, since for the teaching staff it had already been regulated.

As a novelty, the main tool that it introduces is that of mediation. The mediation mechanism can be activated prior to the disciplinary regime and always on a voluntary basis. It is intended that the affected parties can reach an agreement and a solution to the conflict. The body that channels and promotes mediation will be a new specific entity called Coexistence Commission. Each university must establish one, made up equally of students, teaching and research staff, and administration staff. The mediation procedure is also part of this tool, as an option that people involved in a disciplinary procedure can avail themselves of, and the Coexistence Commission will decide whether the file related to the offense that has occurred will be treated as a sanctioning procedure. to one of mediation.

Mediation is an alternative to the sanctioning regime of dialogue and meeting for all types of misconduct except for three cases: when the parties do not want to, in the case of misconduct related to gender violence or for files that affect the heritage of the universities.

A new classification for fouls and penalties

All faults that are not resolved through mediation, will be directed through the disciplinary system, whose power is held by the head of the Rector’s Office or, in the case of minor faults, the vice-chancellor or vice-chancellor. The law classifies offenses as very serious, serious and minor. Within the chapter of very serious hazards, harassment or violence, sexual harassment, discrimination of all kinds, damage to university heritage, plagiarism or fraud of a TFG, TFM or Doctoral Thesis, breach the rules of public health, impede the development of university electoral processes and have been convicted of committing a crime that affects a different legal asset but related to the same university. Hazing that occurs in schools but not in other facilities such as colleges may only be expedited. Sources from the Ministry of Universities explain that, to fill these gaps, this law serves as “inspiration” for other centers, as well as private universities, to develop their own laws of coexistence with this as an example.

On the other hand, preventing a class or any other university activity from being held will be considered a serious offense. Regarding whether the performance of informational pickets in strikes, university protests that prevent a conference and similar activities, ministerial sources allege that “it will have to be seen on a case-by-case basis.” This type of specific offense has not been classified, so according to the events that have occurred: if there is violence, if a teaching activity, research or knowledge transfer is prevented, etc.

The sanctions for serious and very serious offenses can be expulsion (from two months to three years) or a loss of partial enrollment rights during the academic year. The sanctions are restricted to the university in which the offense was committed. For minor fouls, the sanction will be a private warning. For minor and serious offenses, a substitute measure of an educational or recuperative nature may be proposed.

Universities will have a one-year term

The law lays the foundations for the development of the autonomous communities and of the universities themselves. These have a maximum year, from the approval of the law in the courts, to develop their own laws of coexistence. Universities are obliged that their regulations include a gender approach, respect and protection of the affected persons in the procedures, the confidentiality of the content of the complaints, be diligent and prompt, guarantee impartiality and prevent any kind of reprisals against the people who make complaints about violence and / or sexual or gender harassment or any other circumstance.

The Ministry expects the law to reach the courts by the end of summer.


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