Self-declared sick notes, a maximum cap on late penalties, and an extension of the credit-no credit option to the last day of classes are among the recommendations made in a report published by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) to make students aware of their academic and accessibility rights.
This report, titled “Creating an Accessible Campus: Guidelines and Recommendations for the University of Toronto Scarborough – 2017,” is part of an ongoing academic advocacy campaign being led by the SCSU’s Vice-President Academics and University Affairs, Christina Arayata.
The proposal of self-declared sick notes comes in response to the high cost of getting medical documentation, as well as to free up resources from the Health and Wellness Centre used to verify students’ illnesses.
“This is just a recommendation towards the University, it is through meetings and consultation with the administration where we would be able to come up with a pilot/system that would ensure academic integrity is not affected,” wrote Arayata. “Flexible academic policies are already in effect in other institutions like Simon Fraser University or Queens.”
There is also a proposal calling for a maximum five per cent cap on late penalties. According to the report, 68 per cent of students at the Scarborough campus rely on OSAP, requiring them to find part-time jobs, and excessive late penalties — some of which reach 25 per cent per day — force them to choose between assignments and going to work.
The report also suggests extending the credit-no credit deadline to the last day of classes, a process currently in place at UTM. The SCSU believes that doing this would eliminate inaccurate choices made by students predicting their grades two weeks before receiving them. Doing this, according to the report, “has the potential to lessen the load on petitions surrounding this particular area,” which would save resources.
With regard to accessibility concerns, the report includes a proposal of the development of a mandatory policy against the banning of laptops in lectures, as removing laptops “is also mandating the ways in which students can/are supposed to learn in the classroom.”
The report also calls for the university to include the Student Bill of Rights in course syllabi and on Blackboard and ACORN. The inclusion of the bill, which stipulates the right to receive a syllabus in the first week of class, would prevent documented cases where students did not receive a syllabus in the first week of class or received parts of it as the semester progressed.
The report has been presented to the university’s administration, and the SCSU is now “working with the Administration to get these items into actionable items.”
Liza Arnason, Assistant Dean of Student Life, Community Outreach and International Experience at UTSC, said that although conversations are underway, significant progress toward the implementation of the recommendations will not be made until the winter semester.