Know your student rights

By Roger Hollands

Has your faculty ever asked you to withdraw? If you find yourself staring at an unfairly graded exam, then you need to get up and fight. You need to appeal. To help you along the long dark road of appeals is your number one fan, the Students’ Union Student Rights Advisor, Patti Spady.

“I have been a Student Rights Advisor since May 2001,” explained Spady, “I see about 200 students a year.”

Spady points out that she is not an advocate for students, but an advisor who assists them in the appeals process. In 2001/02, 113 frosh students and 32 new transfer students were asked by their faculties to withdraw from their studies.

“My guess is that I am only seeing a small percentage of the students that could benefit from knowing what their rights are and what processes are available to help them solve their problems,” suggested Spady.

Spady insists that the conditions of the few hundred students coming through her door each year are all unique.

“I see students who are very depressed, whose extenuating circumstances are very difficult,” Spady explained.

Many are dealing with issues such as the death of a spouse, severe car accidents, or family abuse issues during their academic crises, she said. For these students, the request to withdraw is usually a drop in the bucket. However, it does not have to spell their scholastic end. Many students with legitimate claims successfully navigate the appeals process and win, while students who have fought and lost are often glad they put in the effort. There is nothing worse than giving up when you could have done something to help yourself, according to Spady.

“I help them compose their letter,” commented Spady. “We sift through the emotion and get to the facts [and] I help them prepare documentation to support their case. They need to go out and find [the] documentation, for example a letter from their doctor that supports their extenuating circumstances.”

If you receive a letter from your faculty requesting your withdrawal, contact Spady at or at her office in MSC 251.


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