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Students must go to Weatherbee questions for now.
the Gauntlet

No one left to point students in the right direction

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University of Calgary students seeking advice might be in for a bit of a shock come midterm time. The university is currently without a students' rights advisor.

In the past, students who felt wronged by the university, academically or otherwise, could seek out the SRA for advice on their next course of action. According to Students' Union vice-president academic Pamela Weatherbee, the SRA was very helpful to students.

"The students' rights advisor worked to fill the void for students who didn't know where to go in terms of getting information about their rights or how to write an appeal letter," said Weatherbee. "They were there to provide advice on how to approach the situation, who to talk to, sort of the next steps to take."

She added that the SRA also served a number of different roles that weren't necessarily delegated at the time the position was created.

"They also supported the VP academic in their role, doing research, also working with student refugees as part of the hardship fund," said Weatherbee.

Now the U of C and the SU is looking at a proposal to create an ombudsperson position that would be employed by university administration. This would effectively eliminate the need for an SRA under the umbrella of the SU.

Social sciences faculty representative Teale Phelps-Bondaroff said the university did not go through the appropriate channels when determining the need for an ombudsperson. He argued that the role of SAA is to make academic policy and an SRA falls under academic policy.

"The proper way to go about it would be to go to the SAA, allow them to debate it and then determine whether it would be proper to let the university cover it," said Phelps-Bondaroff. "Instead what happened is the SAA was informed that we would no longer have an SRA or that we would be putting off hiring one pending the university's decision."

Phelps-Bondaroff continued by stating that the lack of an SRA puts a lot of extra stress on the VP academic and her commissioners.

A similar position at McGill University acts as a source of information on regulations and a mediator between students and university officials.

Weatherbee hopes to have someone hired and fully trained in the ombudsperson role or as an SRA by the time final exams role around this semester. This, according to Weatherbee, is the most important time for the SRA to be in place.

In the meantime, the university will manage without a designated ombudsperson or SRA. Weatherbee and her commissioners will field any student rights concerns and direct those students on their best course of action.

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Comments

This is the most painful thing I've heard to come out of the University in recent memory. The SU and students need to remember that the UofC is not out to make students' rights easier to address.

In all likelihood the University is tired of having students that are well prepared at their disciplinary hearings. Students will need to start bringing lawyers in to make sure they get fair treatment and due process. I guess that's what it's coming to. If you want to be fairly treated and well-educated on your rights as a student, get a lawyer.

The SU should not be so quick to dissolve the SRA position. This is a great resource for students, whether or not there exists an ombudsperson.

Not knowing the details, I would suggest that SAA and SLC debate this issue fully and make an informed decision.

Hi all, I just wanted to point out that this position was advertised this summer and I applied for it. I spent four years running a similar office in St JOhn's Newfoundland at Memorial University. I don't know why the University withdrew the position. I thought the job was an important one, as I ran into many cases which needed my help. One that pops to mind is the case of a student with MS who could not enter a faculty due to poor math grades. Luckily I was able to help him get in otuch with proper sources to present a medical argument for admission. (MS affects ones ability to perform math).

Ending this position in favor of an umbrella ombudsman will most certainly reduce the effectiveness of the position.