Academic Advocacy Office: Overview
Mandate and Terms of Reference
Student Rights and Responsibilities
Academic Integrity and Dishonesty
i.) Mandate and Terms of Reference:
a.) mission statement;
The USSU Academic Advocacy Office is committed to helping students deal with their academic problems and violations of their student rights. We help inform and guide students through the procedures, protocols, and regulations of the University and its various colleges and departments, as well as lobby on behalf of students to make sure that their university experience runs as smoothly as possible. We are here to help address student concerns and complaints through official channels: be they against an instructor, a professor, or the administration. The USSU Academic Advocacy Office acts on behalf of students to make sure that all of a student’s rights are respected and that all students receive fair, valid and unbiased academic assessment of their work.
All activities related to this portfolio are based on a student-driven process; the student is ultimately responsible for determining and pursuing their intended course of action through the guidance and cooperation of the USSU Academic Advocacy Office.
Academic Advocacy Office Statistics May 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013. During this period, there were 101 cases brought forward, which break down as follows:
- 20 Academic Advising cases
- 4 Admissions cases
- 0 Discrimination cases
- 0 Fee Appeals
- 21 Grading cases
- 3 Unprofessional Conduct cases
- 26 Academic Dishonesty cases
- 5 Syllabus related cases
- 22 Requests for General Academic Information
The USSU Academic Advocacy Office is here for you. Please make use of it and its resources; after all, it is your education.
b.) confidentiality policy;
All information presented to the USSU Academic Advocacy Office will be held in the strictest confidence. Only those that the student grants the USSU Academic Advocacy Office permission to release information to, and receive information from, are given access to information about a specific case. This confidentiality agreement allows for discussion of your case between members of the USSU Academic Advocacy Office including the Confidential Student Support Officer and the USSU VP Academic Affairs.
c.) contact information;
The USSU Academic Advocacy Office can be reached by contacting:
Jordon Sherbino, VP Academic Affairs
Room 110, Place Riel Student Centre
1 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A3
Phone: (306) 966-6968
Facsimile: (306) 966-6978
Mandy Elash, Administrative Secretary
Room 110, Place Riel Student Centre
1 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A3
Phone: (306) 966-2510
Facsimile: (306) 966-6978
The USSU Academic Advocacy Office is located in Room 110 Place Riel Student Centre. It is open from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you need to meet at an alternate time, you may call to set up an appointment.
ii.) Student Rights & Responsibilities:
a.) student rights;
It is the right of students to have access to an environment that is conducive to furthering their university education and growth. This includes having an environment that is free of bias, preferential treatment, discrimination, and harassment. Students are entitled to fair and impartial evaluation and assessment of their work by instructors, professors, and administrators. In conjunction with these principles, all students should have equal access to academic materials and resources. If at any time a student feels that their academic standing or experience has been threatened, or if they believe their student rights have been infringed upon, they have the right to take measures of appeal to address their alleged mistreatment or unjust assessment.
b.) student responsibilities;
With rights come responsibilities. The most important of these responsibilities is for students to know and familiarize themselves with the policies and procedures of the University of Saskatchewan, as well as its individual colleges and departments. Ignorance of academic policy and procedures is not an acceptable excuse or defense for students who may be violating university policy.
Students are expected to behave in a way that is suitable to fostering a productive learning environment. This includes treating others with respect, coming prepared for class, completing assignments on time, and maintaining the principles of academic integrity.
c.) responsibilities of professors/instructors;
Professors have specific responsibilities that they must adhere to. Professors are to be knowledgeable of course material and the related subject matter. They are to be prepared for class. They should organize their class according to the course objectives derived from the calendar description and should ensure that course materials are suited to the appropriate course level. Instructors should grade all students’ work in manner that is consistent, fair, and valid. Professors should provide students with a course outline or syllabus that will act as a contract between the professor and students. The professor should reveal any deviation from the syllabus or changes to it. Professors should treat all students with dignity, respect, equality, and understanding. Any breach in these responsibilities may lead to a justifiable student complaint.
iii.) Academic Grievances:
Please seek the help of the USSU Academic Advocacy Office if you are thinking of pursuing any of the following actions or have any questions related to the information presented below:
a.) academic grievances;
Academic grievances are disputes that arise directly out of issues, which may impact a student’s academic performance or standing. It should be noted that these grievances do not include problems associated with discriminatory behavior or harassment, which fall under the category of non-academic grievances. Often, academic grievances center around issues concerning student evaluation. These grievances may be related to unreasonable expectations by a professor, being tested on outside information, and unfair assessment of exams or assignments. Failing that, grievances can normally be rectified through a student-professor-dialogue, but when they can’t students can seek the help and advice of the USSU Academic Advocacy Office.
b.) non-academic grievances (professional conduct);
Non-academic grievances most often arise from cases where there has been a breach of professional conduct by a professor, instructor, or the institution. This may include incidents of discriminatory treatment, harassment, favoritism, unethical conduct, breaches of confidentiality, and violation of university procedure. Non-academic grievances are serious problems and need to be addressed. These problems often affect more than one individual and may continue to impact other students in the future unless dealt with in a prompt and legitimate manner. Students in these cases are often concerned of the impact that pursuing such a complaint may have on their academic career. The USSU Academic Advocacy Office can help you address these issues through confidential means and in a matter that can help protect your rights as a student and your academic standing at the university.
c.) informally addressing the issue;
Most often problems develop due to a lack of communication between the student and an instructor or the administration. It is therefore possible in many cases to address issues through initiating a dialogue between the student and the other parties involved. This method of resolution often produces the best and fastest results for a student. It is recommended that before any formalized action is taken, that a student should attempt to pursue all possible avenues of informal dispute resolution. It should be noted that in some instances where students feel threatened or uncomfortable this may not be possible, in which case students should contact the USSU Academic Advocacy Office for advice and guidance.
d.) formal appeal procedures;
The University of Saskatchewan has set in place a number of formalized appeal procedures to help students who may wish to seek academic or professional redress:
Formal Re-assessment (re-read) at the level of Department or Non-departmentalized college
A department-level re-assessment involves a re-evaluation of assessment of written or non-written work in the context of the expectations for that work, arranged by the department head.
To initiate a re-assessment of written work, the student shall submit a completed Request for and Report of Re-Assessment Form (http://www.usask.ca/university_secretary/honesty/ReassessmentForm.pdf) to the department head or dean in a non-departmentalized college. The request must be made within 30 days of the delivery to the student of the results of the assessment under review. A fee specified by the registrar shall be tendered with the request. The fee will be refunded if the student’s grade on the course or course component is increased at least five (5) percentage points as a result of the re-reading.
It should be noted that all results of a Request for and Report of Re-Assessment are final and not open to any other avenue of appeal. The Request process may result in an increase or decrease in a student’s mark, therefore students should be careful of entering into such an appeal.
Appeals Dealing with Matters Other than Substantive Academic Judgment
A student who alleges that assessment of her or his academic work or performance in course work has been negatively affected by a factor not involving academic judgment of the substance of the work or performance may appeal the assessment.
The student shall deliver to the dean or provost, not later than 30 days from the date the student is informed of the assessment, a written statement of the allegation and a request for a review of the matter. The dean or provost shall instruct the department head to arrange for an informal investigation of the allegation. The dean or provost shall inform the student and the original instructor in writing as to the outcome of the investigation.
If the student is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she may initiate a University Level Appeal.
The University Level Appeal (http://www.usask.ca/university_secretary/honesty/UniversityAppealForm.pdf) is designed to address issues that arise from alleged discriminatory treatment, harassment, or failure to follow university policy and procedures. The University Level Appeal should be made within 30 days from the date of the most recent appeal made by the student. This appeal should be submitted to the University Secretary, the Dean of the college in which the situation occurred, the faculty member responsible for the course to which the allegation relates, and the Dean of the college in which the student is enrolled. This appeal is not designed to result in a change of grade, but to address issues surrounding the situation in question. However, in many cases, special considerations will be granted if a student’s academic standing has been compromised.
Other than these formalized avenues of appeal, the University and its administrative units have set in place a number of various appeal and complaint mechanisms. Please see the USSU Academic Advocacy Office concerning these options.
Chart of Student Appeal Processes:
For more information on Student Conduct & Appeals, please visit:
e.) other academic issues;
There are a number of other areas and problems that the USSU Academic Advocacy Office deals with other than course-based complaints. Some of the most common of these are:
- retroactive course withdrawals
- exam deferrals
- tuition and fee appeals
- registration problems and concerns
- erroneous advising
- transcript errors
If there is any issue that you have questions about or have a complaint concerning do not be afraid to come and ask for help. If we are unable to help, we will try to put you in contact with someone who may be able to do so.
iv.) Academic Integrity & Dishonesty:
a.) why academic integrity matters;
Academic integrity is a prominent focus of the university environment. It helps to foster the professional conduct of both professors and students alike. The principles of academic integrity insure that equality, fairness, and professionalism continue to play prominent roles in the practices of the university community. Academic integrity helps create a productive and honest learning environment where students and faculty can gain knowledge and experience, and be certain that the accumulation of this knowledge is valid and of a high quality. This commitment to academic integrity lends credibility to the research, publications and Degrees that come from the University of Saskatchewan, thus producing an education of the highest value. To protect the standards of academic integrity at the university, every member of the university community must accept full responsibility for their behavior and their work, while refraining from taking credit for the work of others.
b.) academic dishonesty;
The University defines academic dishonesty as any activity that gives a student or is intended to give a student an unfair academic advantage or benefit, or any action that unjustly limits or stifles the potential or recognition of another. This includes various offenses from plagiarism, to exam cheating, to fraudulent deferring of assignments and exams, to alterations of records. For a full list of academic dishonesty offenses, visit the university’s academic honesty website www.usask.ca/honesty
c.) university policy & procedures;
If a professor believes that a student has cheated, two different procedures exist to address the alleged cheating under the University’s student academic dishonesty rules:
Informal Procedures are the procedures followed by professors when they feel that a student has cheated inadvertently or without intending to do wrong. Informal procedures normally consist of a dialogue between the professor and the student as to the nature of academic dishonesty and the importance of academic integrity. There may also be a replacement assignment given or the professor may ask for the original assignment to be resubmitted with alterations it based upon the new information received by the student.
Formal Allegations of Academic Dishonesty are used in situations when a professor believes that the alleged dishonesty requires an academic penalty, ranging from the assessment of a zero mark on the assignment in question, to expulsion from the university. This procedure stipulates that a hearing be held to examine the allegations of academic dishonesty and the relevant evidence. The hearing panel consists of members of the related college faculty, and a student representative. The accused student is permitted to bring another individual or advocate to the hearing. If the student is judged guilty of the offense, a penalty will be applied. The student may appeal the findings of the original hearing panel to the university secretary who will establish an appeals panel to re-hear the case.
See the Academic Dishonesty Rules for a complete description of all procedures.
d.) what to do if charged;
If you are being formally charged with allegations of academic dishonesty, you will receive an informational package in the mail. It will consist of all necessary evidence relating to the case and the formal allegation, as well as a request to contact your related college in order to set up a hearing. Once the package has been received, you should contact the USSU Academic Advocacy Office. We will help you prepare for your hearing by discussing the university’s policies and procedures surrounding academic integrity and academic dishonesty, as well as outlining hearing procedures, and helping you establish a defense. If requested, we will also attend your hearing to advocate on your behalf and to insure all procedural elements are followed.