Harassment, hazing and plagiarism will be paid with the expulsion

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Hazing in Granada. / Reuters

Parliament will approve next week the new disciplinary code for universities, which will put an end to 70 years of Francoist regulations

Alfonso Torres

The current code of university discipline, the regulation that Francisco Franco issued almost 70 years ago from the Pazo de Meirás to strangle the freedom of the campuses and muzzle the faculties, foci of resistance to the dictatorship, is now history. Parliament will bury next week this stale anachronism from 1954 which, at least on paper, 43 years after the Constitution, was the only rule regulating student infractions and their punishments.

The plenary session of the Senate, with the support of the two partners of the Government, the left and the nationalists and the rejection of the PP, Vox and Ciudadanos, will give the definitive green light to the University Coexistence Law, a rule that is committed to mediation and pact as the preferred method to resolve conflicts on campus, but which also establishes a disciplinary regime that punishes sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as harassing hazing and plagiarism, with up to three years of expulsion.

The official approval will be given by the Upper House between next Tuesday and Thursday, but the future law was already closed today and ready to enter into force immediately, the day after its publication. The opinion that will endorse the plenary session had its last debate in the Senate Science and Universities Commission, which approved it without incorporating a single amendment to the text blessed by Congress, so the rule will go right from the Plaza de la Marina Española to the BOE.

PSOE and United We can sacrifice part of the central aspects agreed with rectors and students due to the demand of Esquerra

According to its transitory and final provisions, universities have a maximum of one year to adapt their codes of coexistence to the first democratic framework and the novelties can only be applied to disciplinary problems that are already instructed in schools and faculties if they act in benefit of the investigated. The regulation affects students, teachers, researchers and service personnel. It is directly applicable to public campuses and is a reference for private centers.

Rectors and students, who after months of negotiations agreed with the government on the bill that came to Congress, are disappointed with PSOE and United We Can for breaking the consensus with the university community to satisfy the demands of Esquerra, without whose votes it could not get the law ahead. As a result, the law maintains that mediation is mandatory and takes precedence over sanctions, but the common mechanisms and guidelines for all campuses in the country that were included in the initial project are left out. Now it will be each university that designs its own mediation tools and criteria.

The law, which puts an end to articles with an intense smell of mothballs, such as the one that sets serious penalties for “demonstrations against Catholic morality”, aims to solve most of the incidents and conflicts in university life through dialogue. It includes a detailed regime of sanctions for the most serious acts, but wants it to be of residual application. Only if agreement is not possible. The exception, where there will never be mediation and punishments will be applied directly, will be episodes of gender violence, harassment and academic fraud.

The new code states that the most reprehensible acts constitute very serious offenses that are punished with expulsion from two months to three years or with the cancellation of part of the registration fees. Plagiarism in doctoral theses and final degree or master’s projects, hazing on campus that undermines dignity, falsification of records or notes, discrimination based on sex, gender, birth or disability, the sexual harassment and violence, serious harassment or violence against any university student, and impersonation of students or professors in exams.

Acts that prevent the holding of electoral processes and serious breaches of health regulations, such as teachers who refuse to teach with a mask, will also receive the maximum punishment.

Escraches and pickets

Serious offenses will be sanctioned from one day to one month of expulsion or with the cancellation of the affected subject. Organized or premeditated copying in an exam (cheats, earpieces), stealing or fraudulently obtaining the test, unauthorized access to computer systems or preventing the holding of classes, conferences and other university activities as long as it is not an exercise of the freedoms of expression, strike or demonstration. This nuance leaves escraches and pickets safe, due to the ERC requirement.

Minor and serious offenses, if so agreed, can be replaced by activities in favor of the community. Very serious offenses will prescribe after three years; the serious ones, to both; and mild, at six months. The punishments can be accompanied by fines that try to restitute the damages or compensate the victim for the damages.

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