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Justice Studies society welcomes new recruits

Alpha Phi Sigma's new members pose in front of the Plant Wall.

Dressed in long black robes, a group of Justice Studies students sit patiently as they wait for their names to be called. There are 26 of them lined up in four rows and while just minutes before, the room was filled with the metallic squeaks of moving tables and rushed instructions, it’s now fallen into a respectful silence as the students wait.

Arcing across the wall is a bright golden bunting that tells why they’re here. It reads “Alpha Phi Sigma”, and today these students will be its newest members. 

Though it’s only had a chapter at the University of Guelph-Humber since 2013, APS has a more than 70-year history in Canada and the United States. What started at Washington State University spread across the continent, and there are now at least 360 chapters of the society, which aims to prepare students for careers in policing and the law by encouraging academic achievement, leadership skills and a devotion to social justice.

Back in the classroom, as the students’ names are called, they walk across the room one by one. They receive a certificate, a membership card and are given a broad golden scarf, called a stole, which is draped across their shoulders.

“Members of Alpha Phi Sigma are members for life, so we put the stole on them when they’re inducted into the society and they wear it again at graduation,” says Alice Zheng, 4th-year Justice Studies student and the president of the University’s APS chapter.

The stole is meant to be a reminder of the work that it took to get into the society — applicants need to have been in Justice Studies for three semesters, have a 75% grade average, go through an interview process and then be invited into membership — as well as the mission it stands for. This past year, the chapter’s third year at UofGH, has encouraged its members to get involved in social justice issues.

Since September, APS has run letter-writing and petition-signing events for Amnesty International, staged a fake mugshot day to combat the stigma that comes from being arrested, regardless of guilt,


Their biggest event of the year is a day-long exploration of the history of wrongful convictions in Canadian . Alice, who completed her 3rd-year field placement at the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted, worked with the rest of the Alpha Phi Sigma team to organize the event, which introduced students to famous Canadian instances of wrongful conviction, like Steven Truscott and Guy Paul Morin. Along with these case studies, they also invited guest speaker John Artis, who spent 15 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted with the American boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in the 1960s.

“This year we wanted to focus on issues that happen outside of our school,” says Alice. “These are all real issues and we want to encourage our students, and the rest of campus, to pay attention.”

Alpha Phi Sigma also helps their members prepare for future careers working with the law. They recently sent a team of students to Osgoode Hall Law School's Mooting Competition, which gives undergraduate students a chance to practice mooting, a form of public speaking that is common in law school. Pairs of students present an appeals case to a panel of judges who then offer them critiques and advice, giving students insight into the legal system.

Though Alpha Phi Sigma has seen a big spike in membership numbers this last year, Alice hopes even more Justice Studies students will come to events and apply for membership. They’ve also started accepting 1st-year student volunteers as “rookies”, to help them get familiar with the society.

“Alpha Phi Sigma is a great way to get more involved in what’s going on at UofGH. It’s an honours society, so it encourages students to excel academically, it builds leadership skills, and you get a chance to represent our school when we go to events and field trips.” Along with their events on campus, this year APS also organized trips to Ontario’s police training college and one of Toronto’s detention centres.  

“Besides that,” Alice says. “It’s a good way to network, make friends and it looks great on a resume.”

The golden scarves don’t look half-bad either.

Learn more about Alpha Phi Sigma at UofGH from their Facebook page.

Learn more about student societies at UofGH.

Learn more about Justice Studies at UofGH.