Queen’s ‘filled’ with excellent support systems

But students must help themselves by taking advantage of the services available to them

The Academic Grievance Centre is located in Room 031 of the JDUC.
The Academic Grievance Centre is located in Room 031 of the JDUC.
Photo: 
Vicky Bae, ArtSci ’07
Vicky Bae, ArtSci ’07

Breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, sleeping disorders, spraining a wrist, an anxiety attack, appendicitis, wisdom-tooth extraction, death in a housemate’s family—these are some personal crises I have either experienced or witnessed during my time at Queen’s.

While some students are comfortable discussing these issues with academic staff to be granted extensions or waivers, others silently endure these crises, thinking they are trivial.

No personal issue is trivial. Maybe your TA can’t give you an extension, but that doesn’t make it an insignificant issue to other people and, more importantly, to yourself. Queen’s is known for its
high standards. Along with the contemporary push to be the super student—smart, athletic, fun, serious, cool, hot—we are constantly pressed to excel in everything.

Although Queen’s has a lower turnover rate than most other universities, this heated process does not allow much room for mistakes or weaknesses. Many students are unaware that their mistakes or weaknesses are legitimate. Did you know that some professors understand that relationship issues can really hinder a student’s academic ability? These professors are willing to discuss alternatives if you are willing to discuss it with them. This step is harder than it sounds. Not everyone is comfortable discussing his or her personal life with others—let alone a course instructor. But what can be really uncomfortable is dealing with the aftermath the hard way. In this case, you have to discuss
your personal issues and research how to minimize the damage, which most often consists of wading
through an administrative and bureaucratic swamp of paperwork. I do not mean to intimidate anyone who’s about to go through such procedures. Administrative staff are friendly, and administrative processes themselves are generally student-friendly. Take the Faculty of Arts and Science, for instance, where roughly 80 per cent of academic appeals are granted according to the Faculty of Arts
and Science. While this statistic supports the view that Queen’s is student-friendly and studentoriented,
it also shows that the remaining percentage of students are unaware of the resources available to help them prevent academic appeals in the first place. Personal issues themselves are not the real problem—when something gets students down, theymost often react by closing up.

Having a bad mark, or having a bad term might hurt your chance of getting into your graduate school of choice, but this alone cannot hurt your chance of doing better the next time. It really hurts, when you don’t face the challenge, however on countless occasions I have seen students waiting for
someone to come along and sort out their problems for them, but unfortunately that’s just not going to work. Even close friends sometimes fail to notice you are depressed—what are the chances your professor knows you are having a problem in an auditorium filled with 250 people?

As someone who has survived four years of academic push, and as someone who is currently involved in a peer academic support system, I urge you to take action if you need to.

Work for yourself—not in the sense that you stand alone, but that you’ve got to make the call to allow others to help you. Queen’s is filled with excellent student services, ranging from peer support systems like the AMS’s Academic Grievance Centre, to the university-wide Office of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms, all of which are willing to lend an ear, a hand and some advice. Take advantage of them. Take the matters into your own hands. This is a step no one can do for you, and no one can do a better job than you can. So start moving.

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Vicky Bae is the Academic Grievance Centre co-ordinator. For more information, e-mail agc@ams.queensu.ca

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