The first ever report of the Student Appeal Centre of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) gives the university administration and its executive an unqualified F.
The report was recently made public and describes a tyrannical administration imposing one-sided rules apparently designed to deprive students of both normal due process and unbiased treatment when contesting and appealing arbitrary and life-changing academic decisions made by professors, program directors, and deans.
In the words of the report:
“The most serious appeal cases are the ones related to intimidation, discrimination and unethical behaviour by professors or administrators […] Very rarely are these cases taken seriously nor are they handled respectfully.”
Place of higher learning? The report describes unimaginable regulatory circumstances that would be exemplary in a totalitarian state:
> complete absence of a policy against intimidation and (non-sexual) harassment of undergraduate students,
> professor’s testimony taken at its word versus required proof for student,
> strict deadlines at all stages for students versus no deadlines for the administration,
> cursory treatments and arbitrary case outcome decisions that depend more on who are making the decisions rather than the merits of the cases,
> a secret Senate Appeals Committee that will not identify its members or its chairperson, not even which academic units they represent, and
> terse final appeal decisions provided without documented rulings referring to the evidence or any indication of the grounds for the decisions.
Whereas 11 out of 15 recent cases to the Senate Appeals Committee were believed to be strong enough to win unambiguously, only 2 out of 15 cases won their appeals. The great majority of students, of course, do not take their cases all the way up to a final appeal, given the time, financial resources, and preparation that this requires.
All this is in sharp contrast to Canada’s university’s Vision 2010 mission statement and strategic plan which trumpets a “students first” self image.
The report concludes:
“For years, the Centre and its students have silently and obediently followed the rules and appeal process imposed by the administration. This simply does not work. It’s time for a change.”
The report is dedicated to the Centre’s students “who fought for fair treatment and who told us that ‘people have to know about this.’”
[Photo credit: University of Ottawa]