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Student survival guide: academic appeals

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By Miriam Valdes-Carletti

The Ryerson Senate analyzes hundreds of appeal cases each semester with great care and scrutiny. This process can be very intimidating and confusing; some of you have probably never even heard of an appeal. It turns out, the process is extremely student friendly. The first step in making an appeal is to speak to your professor as soon as you come across an appropriate reason. Five reasons that are considered for an academic appeal are:

1) Medical: Be sure to have a doctors note ready to prove it.

2) Course management: If you think your TA and/or professor was biased or unfair while marking an assignment or granting your final grade.

3) Compassionate: We all have our personal issues. Sometimes they stop us from performing our fullest. From missing classes, inability to study, and preparing for exams.

4) Prejudice: Here at Ryerson, we accept everyone. All genders, sexual orientation, place of origin etc. This follows the Ontario Human Rights Code.

5) Procedural error: No one’s perfect, we all make mistakes. Even the policies at the University.

Once you find the reason best suited to your situation, let your professor know as soon as possible. Timing is everything and the deadline for appeals is usually a couple weeks after the end of the semester. Although keep in mind that not all your academic assignments can be considered for an appeal. This includes oral presentations, internships and group projects.

For undergraduate students, the appeal process is set out in Senate Policy 134 and for graduate students, Senate Policy 152. There are three different levels that your appeal can be heard from:

1) Department: An advocate will be available to help represent you. This is someone who is knowledgeable and experienced to speak on your behalf. Their duties include providing you with advice and presenting available options.

2) Faculty: You can also have an advocate to represent you at this level.

3) Senate: Decisions made at this level are final. You can also bring your own lawyer if you wish.

When making an appeal at the first and second level it is important to know where to go.  For example even If you are an engineering student but wish to make an appeal in a sociology course you took as a liberal, then you would have to go to the chair of the sociology department. If your appeal made it to the second level, then it would be heard from the Faculty of Arts. But if you wish to make an appeal for an engineering course, then you would go to the chair of the engineering department.

There is no set length of how long it can take for your appeal to reach its final step. It can take weeks, months and sometimes even years. But not to worry, this is all up to you and your availability. If you know you have an appeal coming up, clear your schedule and be prepared.

There are many resources around campus to help you be proactive when making an appeal, but it is also up to you to take the first step forward. When an issue arises, it is best to deal with it as soon as possible. Leaving it to the last minute can mean not being able to make an appeal because you missed the deadline.

Taking responsibility is a major step. Sometimes, simply reading your course syllabus is all it takes to realize what can be done to fix your issue. This way you can prevent an appeal if possible.

Take advantage of the help around you. The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and Continuing Education Students Association of Ryerson (CESAR) offer a wide range of workshops to help you prepare an appeal and understand the process. By attending just one of these workshops you can learn a whole lot about the services that Ryerson offers students.


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