U of O program accused of working against students
Tim Wieclawski/metro ottawa
When Bin Hu’s mother became seriously ill and died this year, the University of Ottawa student’s grades fell.
As a result, the 25-year-old Chinese international student was automatically withdrawn from the engineering faculty.
Hu appealed, but lost. He then appealed to the Senate Appeals Committee. But following a 15-minute meeting, he was sent a form letter stating his appeal was without grounds.
The committee is the top level of academic appeal, but Hu is still fighting. If he’s not reinstated as a full-time student, he says he’ll he not be allowed back into Canada next fall.
A new report by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s (SFUO) appeal centre complains that cases like Hu’s are too common, as students with legitimate cause for appeal encounter “systemic injustice” in the process.
“Students are often considered to be cheaters or liars … not enough consideration is being given to their case. There are so many individual complaints that it’s hard pick out a major complaint,” said the report’s author, student appeal officer Mireille Gervais.
Students feel “powerless and abused” by the administration, the report concludes.
The allegations don’t sit well with the university, which is calling the report an “outrageous and unsubstantiated attack.”
“I have not really seen a document like this generated by a responsible body in a long time,” said U of O’s Bruce Feldthusen, vice-president pro tempore university relations.
According to the report, only 44 of 113 appeals with known resolutions between May 1 and Oct. 31 in 2007 were successful. Thirty-two appeals are ongoing while 37 other cases have either been abandoned or there was no response from the faculty.
The odds on appeal are so bad, Gervais has advised students to explore other channels for appeal.
“They should not feel forced to go through an appeal process that they know is unfair,” she said.
But Feldthusen said the student centre should be cautious about advising students not to follow established procedures.
“The damage that could do to a student that has a legitimate appeal is frightening,” he said.
Gervais has made suggestions for improving the process when it comes up for review in January, including a call for time limits to be placed on submitting responses to appeals.
Feldthusen said that recommendation may be adopted.