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University denies claims listed on flyers distributed by student group

Image courtesy of the Student Rights Centre

High school students and their parents who checked out our campus  on Oct. 17 were handed a flyer that listed the “top five” reasons not to attend the University of Ottawa.

After being given the go-ahead from Protection Services, members of the Student Rights Centre (SRC) handed out the flyers “to alert potential students to the types of problems they face as they come here,” according to SRC director Mireille Gervais.

The SRC is a division of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) that helps students appeal decisions made by the university administration that they find unfair.

“It’s always been important at the Student Rights Centre to make sure that we inform the community of worrying aspects of our university’s administration. Our role is to defend students,” said Gervais.

Chris Hynes, the SFUO’s vice-president of university affairs, said the goal of the flyer was to speed up the university’s implementation of an official accommodations policy for students with disabilities and to bring attention to what the SRC believes are other problems the university needs to address.

In a statement, the university administration said the flyers “contained information that is either incomplete, inexact, or based on outdated data.”

According to the flyer, 84 per cent of students lose their scholarships after one year. The university refuted the claim by saying it allocated $72 million for scholarships and bursaries in the current academic year, and that 75 per cent of students lose their scholarships. Students are required to maintain a certain grade point average to keep the scholarship.

“This is at no fault of the university,” said Vince Kang, a fourth-year history student who was a volunteer at the campus tour.

“I lost my admission scholarship, but it was because my grades dropped. I knew I was going to lose it.”

Other issues the SRC addresses on the flyer include the university not having an accommodations policy for students with disabilities; not punishing professors who have plagiarized students’ work; not accepting “diarrhea, colds, and menstrual cramps” as valid reasons for deferring an exam; and not heeding recommendations made by the ombudsperson.

The university’s statement said it’s in the process of developing a specific accommodations policy in collaboration with the SRC.

In regards to the fourth claim, the university said students retain the right to get a doctor’s note for a deferral if their medical condition prohibits them from sitting an exam.

Kang said he was “shocked” by the group’s action, and was one of many students who opposed the SRC’s efforts and claims.

“As of right now, I am extremely unhappy with the way I am being represented as a student,” he said.

“I am proud of my school and I love being at (the U of O). If anyone were to ask me why I loved being here, I’d promptly try to convince them why, and show them how amazing it is here, rather than try to repel them away from the school.”

Kang said the SFUO has damaged relationships with the university administration. He used the SFUO’s tuition hike protest at the unveiling of the Advanced Research Complex on Sept. 30 as another example.

Hynes commented on the negative response: “I really appreciate that students are taking their time to share their opinions. To be perfectly frank, I don’t have time to go and babysit social media for everything people want to talk to us about,” he said.

However, the SFUO makes sure to respond to direct inquiries, Hynes added.

At the time of publication, the SFUO had received three formal complaints, Hynes confirmed: two from members of the Undergraduate English Student’s Association and one from an alumnus.

In the last student election, Hynes said that as vice-president of university affairs he would work to improve the SFUO’s relationships with the university administration.

“Since I’ve been in office we’ve begun to have regular meetings with… the associate vice-president of student services (Lucie Mercier-Gauthier),” said Hynes, also citing strong relationships with the library administration and the office of Strategic Enrollment Management.

The issue was also brought up at the latest Board of Administration (BOA) meeting Oct. 19, where several students showed up to address the flyer, including Lucy Ellis, a fourth-year English major, as well as the vice-president of finance of the Undergraduate English Student’s Association (UESA).

Ellis who issued a formal complaint to the SFUO said she was “extremely disappointed with yet another SFUO stunt.”

“I wholeheartedly believe that the tactic of forming positive relationships leads to better change,” she said, “than constantly trying to undercut and embarrass the university.”