By Stephen Huebl
A proposal to change the appeals policy at Ryerson would create an unbearable workload sifting through student appeals, said the dean of Ryerson’s engineering program.
The policy change, which has been in the wors for over a year, would introduce the number of appeal levels from three to two and completely alter the way in which appeals are handled.
Stalin Boctor, dean of engineering and applied sciences, expressed concern that the new policy would hurt the faculty of engineering and applied science because it receives more appeals than any other school in the university.
“It will require three to four times the current time needed to deal with appeals,” he said. “Operationally, it is incredibly difficult to conceive how it can be managed and applied.”
Boctor said each semester his faculty generally has to deal with 100 to 150 appeals at the first level and 50 at the second level.
Some faculty members, like Marsha Barber of the School of Journalism, believe the current appeals process has worked well for the school and don’t want it changed.
“The current process is manageable and serviceable,” Barber said. “Students know that if they have concerns, faculty will deal with them. It seems like the new policy is more complicated and bureaucratic.”
There are presently three formal appeal levels in the policy – the chair, the dean and the academic Appeal Committee.
If a student cant resolve an issue with the professor directly, they can file an appeal with the school or department chair. If that appeal is rejected, the student can continue on to the dean level, and if the appeal is rejected again, they can go to the Academic Council Appeal Committee,
A report by Diane Schulman, secretary of Academic Council, cited this process as “inefficient and time-consuming” because the information provided at each of the previous levels may be repeated, with no new information being presented.
The report also cites other problems with the current policy, such as inconsistencies in decision-making, time issues and the fact it can take nearly a whole semester before a final decision is given to a student. Chairs are also put in a difficult position when they have to adjudicate between students and professors, many of which are their colleagues, the report stated.
The proposed changes to the policy would see an appeal go first to an appeal officer. After that, the student would have to apply to have the appeal taken to the next level.
In a letter to Schulman, Ken Marciniec, RyeSAC’s vice-president education, said he did not think the number of appeals were too high.
“I do not think the number of students currently appealing to the third level constitute[s] an undue burden,” he wrote. He said the chair of the Appeals Committee reported only 33 cases in 2000-2001.
Not all reaction to the policy changes were negative.
Donna Smith, director of the School of Retail Management, said the changes help solve and clarify a number of issues.
“I think the policy, in our school, gives us some more leeway o deal with issues before they become formal appeals.”
Schulman said Ryerson is just trying to align its policy with what is standard for Ontario universities.
“Most universities have a similar process to what [we] have done with [our] draft,” she said.
Three levels of appeals is by far the lengthiest of all universities.”