Grades are the most common concern faced by students who come to the ombuds office, according to a presentation made by Concordia’s ombudsperson to the Board of Governors. At last Thursday’s board meeting, Kristen Robillard outlined the salient findings of a report which broke down and analyzed the cases received in 2009-2010.
“Most of the people who came to us for consultation were students, by virtue of the number of students on campus,” Robillard said. “For undergraduates the most important [concern] or the concern that came up the most often in terms of academic matters was grades and re-evaluation of their work.”
Four-hundred and sixteen of the 531 cases brought to her office in 2009-10 were by students. However, while the ombuds saw more undergraduates, proportionally she was visited by more graduate students – 27.4 per cent of those students were graduates, whereas they make up 16.2 per cent of the student body.
At the undergraduate level, since many of the complaints related to unclear grading schemes and course outlines, the ombudsperson suggested that all professors implement the common course outline, as recommended by the office of the Provost. She also recommended that the academic re-evaluation procedures be reviewed. The procedures were last updated in 2001.
In addition to concerns about grades, graduate students are also facing recurring problems with their thesis supervisors, according to the report. A fifth of graduate cases dealt with supervisors; issues included delays in receiving the supervisor’s feedback and the supervisor requiring more work be submitted before approving the thesis submission.
Robillard’s report recommended that supervisors and graduate students develop a “detailed plan of action” before beginning their work together. According to the report, the development of an academic and research plan is already in the works within the graduate studies department.
Some recommendations made by the ombudsperson have already been implemented, like providing a final notice to students about upcoming financial deadlines, and looking at financially assisting international students who are facing an unannounced tuition fee increase.
The presentation marked the first time an ombudsperson reported to the Board of Governors. As of June 2010, the ombudsperson is now entirely independent of the university administration and reports only to the board.