Probing the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Academic Accommodations and Considerations System

‘Giving students the benefit of the doubt is key for me’

Image by: Herbert Wang
Students, faculty speak about academic accommodations and considerations system

As students prepared to write their final exams in December last year, many were surprised to learn of a last-minute accommodations change.

On December 1 2022, the Student Affairs office at Queen’s University announced academic consideration would be granted for students who needed to miss a class, exam, or academic requirement due to COVID-19 in an email. In a rare turn of events, medical documentation for accommodation wasn’t required.

The announcement regarding the absence of documentation requirements just in time for exam season paved the way for lasting tensions between students and faculty regardingthe academic accommodations and considerations system, particularly in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

For students in the Faculty of Health Sciences, the aforementioned announcement meant that they could receive an academic consideration for less than three days without providing supporting documentation. Students submitting a request for this type of academic consideration within three days of a final exam would be approved without the typically required documentation, such as a doctor’s note.

In October 2023, external reviews of the academic accommodations system at Queen’s began with an emphasized priority being gathering student input. In interviews with Health Sciences students, The Journal learned about frustrations regarding the academic accommodations and consideration system in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Sara Pollanen, HealthSci ’25, had a lot to say about her time as the Second Year representative in the Health Sciences Society (HSS)—the Faculty of Health Sciences’ elected student government—during the 2022-2023 school year.

In a statement to The Journal, Pollanen commented on the fact that many students came to her seeking clarification on the academic accommodations and considerations process during the exam season for the Fall 2022 semester.

“My role was to triage students to the correct departments and emails when they may have been confused. I also helped with clarification of the language of the accommodations portal in case students had questions. However, most of the time, I referred them to the faculty, as they were much more knowledgeable regarding the specific conditions of the language and instructions,” Pollanen said.

As one of the main points of contact between Health Sciences students and faculty, Pollanen found herself often writing out explanations on the process for requesting academic accommodations and considerations. She emphasized the benefit of students having a peer contact when navigating the system.

Roan Haggerty-Goede, HealthSci ‘25, served as the HSS’s Academic Affairs commissioner and is currently their Vice President of Operations. Haggerty-Goede is no stranger to the academic accommodations system, and has deferred to short-term academic consideration due to illness during his time at Queen’s.

“That was a very helpful option for me, especially because of sickness,” Haggerty-Goede said.

While Haggerty-Goede appreciated the leniency of the system, he empathized with professors’ concerns about students taking advantage of this leniency to receive undeserved academic accommodations or considerations.

“From the professors’ side, there are some classes where half of the class uses their three-day consideration just to get that extension and obviously that is a little bit of a concern,” he said.

In referring to the three-day consideration, Haggerty-Goede was talking about the policy mentioned on the Faculty of Health Sciences’ website that allows students to submit a request for academic consideration for extenuating circumstances for up to three days without documentation once each academic term.

When it came to reforming a system that can be difficult to navigate for many students, Haggerty-Goede’s first suggestion was centralization.

“It could be a useful thing to have everything available online,” he said. “Some courses require you to fill out specific forms and email it or deliver a hard copy of it, which isn’t always feasible, while others offer the portals. I think it could be a very useful thing to move everything into one centralized portal.”

Furthermore, Haggerty-Goede pointed out removing this onus from students​​—some of whom are experiencing more extreme extenuating circumstances—when they request academic accommodations or considerations as being another priority to mitigating barriers to academic consideration.

“I know somebody who had a family member pass away and that was obviously a very difficult situation. In that situation, they had to provide an obituary or death certificate in order to get the more long-term academic consideration,” he said.

Haggerty-Goade doesn’t believe such requirements are fair. In his view, the last thing students should be worried about is submitting an obituary or a death certificate when they’re dealing with the death of a family member.

He also mentioned concerns about an inefficient process and hopes to see it streamlined in the future. In discussing specific inefficiencies, Haggerty-Goade pointed out that there’s a lot of requirements to track. For example, when a student’s request for academic accommodations is approved, the student must contact their professor despite the accommodations doing so as well.

Just as Haggerty-Goade expressed concerns about the system putting too much of an onus on students, Rishabh Sablok, HealthSci ‘25, feels the system can be intrusive when it comes to documentation requirements.

Sablok believes the documentation requirements can be particularly burdensome for students experiencing mental health issues. While some would advise these students to seek out documentation from a therapist, he finds that to be an insensitive recommendation given that not all students are comfortable enough or have the resources to approach a therapist with their mental health concerns.

Sablok himself has experienced the benefits of a more lenient academic accommodations and considerations system. During the 2022-2023 school year, Sablok recalled submitting an academic consideration request to get extensions on some assignments. He told The Journal it gave him a few days to rest and recollect himself.

“Basically [it] allowed me to do better on all of my assignments,” Sablok said in an interview with The Journal.

When requesting academic consideration, Sablok particularly appreciated the option to cite confidential matters as his reason for the request.

Though Sablok has benefitted from the academic accommodations system, he expressed concerns with professors making exams harder for students who receive academic accommodations or considerations. He recalled this concern rising when he explored an academic accommodation that would allow him to defer one of his exams.

“One of my professors did imply that the exam usually is harder for the deferred people. It was almost able to persuade me to not take the accommodation in the winter.”

However, Sablok noted that the academic accommodation enabled him to perform better on the exam. He said he thought the policy should be expanded to allow students more opportunities to get accommodation without documentation than just once in an academic term.

“I needed a mental break and also my physical body itself was also struggling during that time since my mental health and physical health are both related. It actually helped a lot having the exam later on. I think it was a month later. It allowed me to rest and be able to perform better on the exam,” Sablok said. “People can get sick more than once a year or once a semester. I think they should allow more accommodations without documentation.”

Unlike Haggerdy-Goede or Sablok, Amin Meghdadi, HealthSci ’26, believes the documentation requirements in the Faculty of Health Sciences are fair and prevent students from abusing the accommodations system.

“From a personal perspective, I would say that if students do not require documentation [for academic accommodations or considerations], people may misuse it,” Meghdadi said in an interview with The Journal.

Meghdadi also believes the academic accommodations and considerations system is navigable. He appreciated the academic advisors for their support in helping him navigate the system.

Christopher Lohans, a professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, commented on the increase in requests for academic accommodations and considerations in the 2022-2023 school year.

“A substantial number of students did write the deferred exam in January [2023] which is a bit of a challenge from the perspective of the teaching team just to coordinate things and maintain academic integrity by changing up the questions,” Lohans said in an interview with The Journal.

Lohans also discussed the impacts of this trend on himself. He mentioned that the inquiries related to academic accommodations and consideration make up a significant portion of the emails he receives on a day-to-day basis.

Despite the challenges and additional work posed by a large number of students requesting academic accommodations or considerations, Lohans still believes that the issue should be approached with the belief that everyone is operating in good faith.

“I’d rather not have to second guess what students are doing and what their motivations are. Giving students the benefit of the doubt is key for me.”


academic accommodations, academic consideration, Faculty of Health Sciences

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