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July 1, 2015
Canadian Excellence

Professional Behaviour Policy

Faculty of Social Work Policy for Review of the Development of Students’ Professional Behaviour

“Schools shall have policies requiring that the performance of professional responsibilities of social work students be in accordance with the relevant social work code of ethics, with particular emphasis on professional responsibilities towards vulnerable or disadvantaged groups” (CASSSW Standards 4.3 Board of Accreditation Manual, October 2003).  Beginning 2005, students will be advised in their offers of admission that they are expected to adhere to the Code of Ethics, both in Family and in the field practicum.  The following document outlines policies and procedures to address concerns regarding student’s behaviours that are not consistent with the code of ethics and to provide students with a clear set of behavioural expectations.  It is important that students review and become familiar with the Code of Ethics and relevant university policies including:

  • Integrity in the Conduct of Research
  • Ethics in Research
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Academic and Research Misconduct
  • Student Code of Conduct and Discipline
  • Ownership of Student-Centred Intellectual Property
  • Principles in the Use of Information Technology
  • Sexual Harassment Policy
  • Race Relations Policy
  • Records and Confidentiality

For university policies see the WLU Graduate Calendar.

In professional programs such as social work, professional and scholastic performance comprise academic standards.  This policy is an attempt to balance the commitment of the Faculty of Social Work to support and assist students, with the need to prepare students for social work roles in which they will have responsibility for, and can directly impact vulnerable individuals, families and communities.  It is intended to provide guidelines that will enhance the Faculty’s ability to identify behaviours that suggest that a student may require assistance in order to meet current standards of professional social work practice.

Confidentiality and Sharing of Information
The Faculty recognizes that the safety, confidentiality and self-determination of students or others who have been subject to unprofessional conduct under this Policy must be an important priority.  In developing a response to a problem, the Faculty must balance confidentiality against its duty to protect existing and future students or persons who might otherwise be placed in jeopardy by a student who is acting in an unprofessional manner under this Policy.  Information disclosed during student meetings with instructors, program or practicum coordinators, or the Dean will not be kept confidential if the information raises concerns about a student’s capability of assuming the professional responsibilities of social work practice.  Instructors and/or program coordinators and/or the Dean will share pertinent information with each other in a respectful and professional manner, for the purpose of identifying student issues and enhancing problem solving about the concerns.  The Faculty reserves the right to share information with the University or third parties as required by law.

Behaviour that May Result in a Review
Student reviews can occur under any of the following circumstances:

  • Serious or persistent breaches of either the current Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the Ontario College of Social Worker and Social Service Workers or the CASW Code of Ethics.
  • Behaviour that causes individuals within the Faculty of Social Work to have a serious and persistent concern about the effect of the student’s behaviour on the learning environment.  Reasons for the serious and persistent concern may include, but are not limited to, the following behaviours: speech or behaviour that contravenes the Ontario Human Rights Code (e.g. discrimination or harassment because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability); any threat or attempt to physically harm another person; and intimidation or threats to harm another person in non-physical ways.

Three Levels of Review

Three levels of review can occur in the Faculty of Social Work regarding behaviour that is not consistent with the ethics of the profession of social work.  The level of review depends upon the seriousness of the allegation of a breach of the Policy.

Level One
A Level One review involves a classroom instructor and a student, or a practicum instructor and a student.  When either a classroom instructor or a practicum instructor has concerns about an MSW student’s behaviour as it relates to professional behaviour that instructor will:

  • Discuss those concerns directly with the student and seek to work with the student to resolve the concern.
  • Document dates and content of meetings with students.

If a problem arises in the practicum, the practicum instructor will discuss concerns directly with the student and also with the faculty advisor following the procedure outlined in the MSW Practicum Manual.

In many instances, meetings between the parties resolve the concerns and do not lead to further reviews.  However, if the concerns are not resolves at Level One, the parties will proceed to Level Two.  The Faculty may decide to record in writing the discussions and resolution of the meetings at Level One and has the right to retain this record.

Level Two
If the concern is expressed by a classroom instructor and cannot be resolved at Level One, a Level Two review involves the instructor, student, and the MSW Coordinator.  The instructor and the MSW Coordinator will be notified ahead of time regarding the identity of the person who will be accompanying the student.

If a concern arises in the practicum, and cannot be resolved at Level One, it is the responsibility of the faculty advisor to inform the MSW Practicum Coordinator of the concern.  The MSW Practicum Coordinator will meet with the student (and another person if the student wishes), the practicum instructor and the faculty advisor.  The practicum instructor and the MSW Practicum Coordinator will be notified ahead of time regarding the identity of the person who will be accompanying the student.

The MSW Coordinator (in the case of concerns arising from the classroom) or the MSW Practicum Coordinator (in the case of concerns arising from the practicum) will determine the nature of the concern and gather sufficient information to develop a written plan to address that concern, if one is needed.  No further action may be required, or the student may be asked, in writing, to modify his or her behaviour and/or seek appropriate help.  This process is designed to assist students in dealing with identified concerns that have an impact on their performance as a social worker.

The MSW Coordinator or the MSW Practicum Coordinator as appropriate will assess the nature of the concerns with the student, and the involved instructor(s), maintain documentation, and decide if it is necessary to conduct a more comprehensive review, pursuant to Level Three.

Level Three
Generally, a Level Three review is called when the issues are serious enough in the discretion of the Faculty to require formal intervention.  A Level Three review is most often conducted when concerns have not been resolved in prior reviews.  A Level Three review always occurs in the serious case when a student is being considered for withdrawal or discontinuance in the program or suspension or expulsion from the University.

When a Level Three review is called, the MSW Coordinator or the MSW Practicum Coordinator will bring the concerns to an in-camera meeting of the MSW Petitions Committee.  For purposes of the Level Three review, this committee will include three external members.  The external members will be selected from the following:  WLU Equity Consultant; the Dean of Students; WLU staff or faculty member who is accountable to a professional code of ethics. 

The Dean, as chair of the committee, in consultation with the student, will select the two external members.  The Dean of the Faculty of Social Work will chair the meeting.  The following individuals may be invited to attend the meeting:  the student (and another person if the student wishes), appropriate faculty members, practicum instructor, faculty advisor or others as is deemed appropriate to gather further information, determine the nature of the problem (if one is confirmed to exist) and identify alternatives for its resolution.  Members of the Petitions Committee will be notified ahead of time regarding the identity of the person who will be accompanying the student.  Members of the Petitions Committee who have formed an opinion on the matter prior to the in-camera meeting will not participate.

The student will be notified in writing of the concerns and meeting date, with sufficient time to prepare for and attend the meeting.

At the meeting, the Faculty will present their information and position on the conduct and appropriate sanction.  After Faculty present their case, the student, if he or she wishes, may ask questions about t6he information presented.  Then the student can present information he or she considers appropriate and present his or her position on conduct and the appropriate sanction.  The Faculty can ask questions of the student.  Hearsay evidence is to be avoided unless it is necessary and reliable.  The Committee has the right to control information and questions to issues of relevance.

At the conclusion of the meeting the committee will determine a solution based on all information gathered.  The Dean of the Faculty of Social Work will inform the student in writing of the decisions, which can include one or more of the following actions:

Continue the student in the program with no conditions.
In these situations, the concern has been addressed and no further action by the student or program is required.

Establish formal conditions for the student’s continuance in the program.
In these situations, specific conditions must be met in order for the student to remain in the program.  Action may include establishing goals, a plan, a time line, and appropriate monitoring; providing mentoring and support; placing the student on probation and monitoring the student during the probationary period; referring the student to counselling and/or advising services; or requiring the student to temporarily withdraw from the program.

Consult with and/or refer to the University Harassment Officer or the Dean of Graduate Studies.
In some instances, depending on the nature of the problem, the University’s Harassment Officer and/or the office of the dean of Graduate Studies may be consulted.  If a referral is made, the student will be notified in writing about the nature of the concern and the fact that the referral is taking place.  Situations which may result in such a referral include scholastic dishonesty, hazing, harassment (racial, sexual or criminal), possession or use of weapons on University property, damage or destruction of University property, and conduct that endangers the health or safety of any University student, employee, or campus visitor.

Discontinue the student in the program.
On very rare occasions, it will be recommended that the student no longer continue in the social work program.  The student will be counselled to voluntarily withdraw.  If that does not occur, the student will be discontinued from the program.  In either case, the student will be provided with documentation regarding the specific reasons for their dismissal and the conditions, if any, under which they may be re-admitted.  In the vent of a re-application, the student will be required to produce evidence addressing the reasons for their dismissal from the program.

In any Level Three review, there must be clear, concise documentation of the problem areas as well as verification that these concerns have been discussed with the student and attempts have been made to ameliorate the concern, where appropriate.  Students must be notified of the decision in writing within ten calendar days of the review.

Any decision made by a program Petitions Committee may be appealed to the Petitions Committee of the Graduate Faculty Council.  See under the heading “Petitions” in the Graduate Studies Calendar.  Appeals to the Petitions Committee will be permitted only on the grounds of:
a)  New evidence, i.e. evidence relevant to the decision made at the Faculty Council or Petitions Committee level but through no fault of the appellant not presented at that level or
b)  Evidence of a substantial procedural irregularity in the consideration of the case.

May 25, 2005