AMS offers academic grief relief

Jocelyn Crawford, ArtSci ’06, is still bitter about the grade she received on a paper she wrote two years ago.

“The TA marking my essay didn’t like my style of writing, and took at least ten per cent off my mark solely for that reason,” she said. “He gave me no constructive criticism at all and actually told me I should expect to get even lower marks when I went on exchange the following year.” Crawford spoke with both the TA and the professor of the course, but said she didn’t feel comfortable pursuing the issue any further. It’s for students like Crawford that the AMS is relaunching the Academic Grievance Centre (AGC) this Monday.

Operated through the Academic Affairs Commission (AAC), the AGC will act as a source of information and advocate for students who feel they have been treated unfairly in the academic realm. “For example, if you have an issue with a grade on a paper, personal relations with a prof [or] even if you just want to know if something [could] … be a grievance,” said Maria Pontikis, Academic Grievance Centre coordinator. “These are matters we can help with.

“We deal with students who want to dispute grades, who miss exams because of illness, or have personal problems that affected their usual academic performance,” she said.

To make their grievances known, students may use an anonymous dropbox located in the JDUC, email academicgrievance

@ams.queensu.ca or drop by the AGC office in room 32 of the JDUC.

The AGC assigns each case to a student officer, who will walk the complainant through the process of making a formal appeal to the relevant dean. “The centre serves as a link between administration and students, something that is often lacking,” Pontikis said. One of the great advantages of the AGC is the anonymity it offers, said Liz Miller, AAC deputy commissioner (initiatives). “It’s completely confidential,” Miller said. “We don’t keep records of names or contact information.”

Pontikis said it’s understandable that sometimes students might be hesitant to go public with their grievance.

“Because this is [about] the person who is actually marking their work,” she said.

Miller added that sometimes students just want an anonymous forum.

“We can help them with that.”

Luke Cole, ArtSci ’07, said the provision for anonymity appeals to him.

“I definitely think that would be helpful with direct complaints,” he said. “If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your prof or TA, an intermediary would be perfect.”

Sangeetha Navaratnam, ArtSci ’06, agreed.

“Nobody wants to be the shit-disturber,” she said. “I can’t see myself challenging a prof on my own, but I could conceive of using the service, having the option of remaining anonymous.”

Miller said she feels the fact that the committee is student-run is another advantage of the AGC. “All the officers are students too, so it’s less intimidating,” she said. While the AGC has been running for the past four years, it appears to be a little-used resource. None of the students approached by the Journal had previously heard of the Academic Grievance Centre.

“It’s a shame that this has been a resource for four years and I’ve been here for four years and I haven’t known about it,” Navaratnam said.

Katrina Kelly, ArtSci ’08, also said she thought it would be a useful resource.

“I could have used it last year,” she said.

Miller and Pontikis say they hope to make the AGS better known to students this year.

They have just started a new publicity campaign with the slogan “Got grief?” “We want to make students aware that they have an outlet to go to,” Pontikis said. “We can point them in the right direction.”

Crawford said she would have appreciated the AGC’s services had she known they were available at the time of her disputed grade.

“The idea of an Academic Grievance Centre is a really good one, because it allows us to break out of the belief that as students, we have to accept these marks,” she said. “It gives us some agency in our own education.”

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