Students skeptical about changes to academic accommodation as TMU changes series of policies

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By Krishika Jethani

Some Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students are questioning the effectiveness of the university’s update to academic accommodations, as the school highlights changes to several policies.

The school mentioned its updates to Policy 159 and Policy 48 in a story posted to TorontoMet Today earlier this month. 

Policy 159 pertains to accommodations for students with disabilities and Policy 48 pertains to the undergraduate academic term.

Changes to the academic accommodations policy

The university approved the update to Policy 159 in June 2022, after a series of virtual town halls aiming to improve student accessibility.

The school also said in the story that the policy was updated to “better reflect the university’s values, and to demonstrate a stronger commitment to addressing the barriers that some students face.” 

Policy 159 includes “broader” definitions for terms such as academic accommodation, disability and medical documentation. Amanda Lang VanderVeen, a third-year architectural science student, said she believes this policy change is not specific enough to better serve students who need accommodations.

“It’s kind of hard to say how [the Policy 159 update is] going to play out in practice because it does sound a little bit vague,” VanderVeen said. “I’m not exactly sure what that [change] would look like. I don’t feel like that really helps students that I know.” 

In an emailed response to The Eyeopener, the university said it “continues to improve and streamline processes so that students and faculty are better supported,” during the academic accommodation process. 

The school pointed to the Express Registration Option, which they hope will “expedite the development and approval of student accommodation plans so that individual student accommodation plans are received within approximately five business days of receipt of a complete intake form,” the university said in the email.

The school also added in its story that Policy 159 places great importance on collaboration among students, instructors and school administrators.

Additionally, instructors are able to receive training on the distinctions between Policy 167: Academic Considerations; and Policy 159, to be able to provide the best guidance to students in terms of which support to apply to.

Unlike academic accommodations where only students with disabilities can apply, anyone attending TMU who is dealing with extenuating circumstances can apply for this academic consideration. Circumstances include illness, allowing students to apply for an Academic Consideration Request (ACR), according to the university.

VanderVeen said she is skeptical as to whether training TMU staff and instructors on the new policy will actually make applying for accommodations easier. 

“It still sounds like in a lot of cases, students have to come to them,” added VanderVeen about the changes to the accommodations application process.

Law intensive courses to start earlier

While those who use academic accommodations still believe the school needs to do more to make the application process easier, law students are mostly satisfied with the school’s update to Policy 48.

The change to the policy will now see intensive courses required in the Lincoln Alexander School of Law’s (LASL) curriculum start a week before the regular 12-week term. 

The intensive courses are part of the Integrated Practice Curriculum that puts a greater emphasis on practical rather than theoretical education. 

Because of this, students enrolled in the program do not need to fulfil the articling requirement to be a licensed lawyer, where a professional work placement must be completed after law school. 

Shany Raitsin, a second-year LASL student, said she prefers the updated timeline because she doesn’t have to balance so many classes at once. “I think them being one week before the term starts is smart because it gives us that week to focus on whatever it is we’re doing,” she said.

Raitsin added that the curriculum is very challenging but useful when developing practical skills.  

“The fact that it kind of expedites your legal education to where you can skip articling is a huge benefit.”

For second-year LASL student Malik Nembhard, starting school a week early is something he doesn’t mind if it means getting a competitive education. 

“With the actual business of lawyering, most schools just typically focus on the theoretical side,” Nembhard said. “The school really creates space for us to get work experience, so as we exit [LASL], we’re already equipped. Everybody has some kind of legal work experience.”

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