The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has initiated a campus-wide “Know Your Student Rights” campaign to make more undergraduate students aware of their academic rights.
Coordinated by the SSMU University Affairs office, the campaign includes a Facebook page and a campaign website, where students can select issues they wish to address and access the relevant university regulations. Topics include syllabi, grade breakdowns, midterm conflicts, final exam deferrals, academic accommodations, and available resources for addressing violations.
Described as “a work-in-progress,” the website quotes documents such as the University Student Assessment Policy and the Charter of Student Rights to illustrate exactly which resources McGill professors must make available in the first few weeks of class before the Add/Drop period ends.
The website also dispels certain myths; for example: “Contrary to popular belief, there are no regulations regarding changes to course syllabi at McGill. In fact, the University retains the power to change evaluation schemes in the event of any ‘extraordinary circumstances’ outside of their control.”
When asked if McGill’s administration does enough to make students aware of their academic rights, SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat told The Daily in an email: “Definitely not. Unfortunately, the administration has made clear that the onus is on students to find, interpret, and even enforce their own rights.”
“There are basic steps that other institutions take to ensure compliance with their own policies,” continued Sobat, “such as educating instructors and TAs, including links for students on course syllabi, and reviewing syllabi and course structures each term. SSMU has created this campaign and resources to fill this gap.”
Additionally, the “Know Your Student Rights” website extensively details how and with whom students can address violations, whether it be an instructor, a Department Chair, the Dean of Students, or others. The VP University Affairs office recognizes that “while the rights outlined on [the] website are guaranteed by the University, there are significant power dynamics in the student-instructor relationship that may act as a barrier to addressing them one-on-one.”
“The administration needs to enforce standardized guidelines on accommodations and clearly articulate the expectations and responsibilities of everyone involved in the accommodations process,” Sobat also wrote.
“Individual faculty members should definitely not have the discretion to make decisions on whether or not accommodations should be granted, nor should they need to know a student’s personal information or diagnosis,” he concluded.