A University of Alberta committee has launched its efforts for the year to reduce the bureaucratic rundown of processes and policies for students.
The Academic Policy and Process Review Taskforce (APPRT) held its first meeting of the year Tuesday, bringing together a number of administrative figures including the Dean of Students, the Registrar, and acting provost Martin Ferguson-Pell, who will chair the committee during Carl Amrhein’s administrative leave.
Students’ Union Vice-President (Academic) Dustin Chelen is also part of the committee, and said it has special importance among the 45 committees he serves on.
“It isn’t too hard to think of different rules and policies that can bog down students,” Chelen said. “Just take a look through how thick the calendar is. The calendar is nothing but academic rules and policies affecting students.”
Going into the meeting, Chelen said academic advising would likely be a key issue for the committee this year.
“When I was campaigning, students said, ‘My academic advising experience hasn’t been helpful. It hasn’t given me the information that I need. And I waited a long time for it,’ ” Chelen said.
“I talked to one girl who actually broke down in tears because of the experience she had just had with an advisor. So I think it’s something worthwhile looking at this year.”
Acting provost Martin Ferguson-Pell said Chelen brought his concerns to the first meeting and agreed it’s an issue that needs further probing.
“We realize that the very best advising we can provide for our students can help in numerous ways. It helps students in terms of their overall experience and it’s closely linked to the values we have established under Dare to Deliver and Dare to Discover,” Ferguson-Pell said.
Although several policies and processes were seen as strong contenders out of the 50 up for review, Ferguson-Pell said the first meeting was mainly to establish four working groups who will prioritize the most pressing issues of the year.
“Because we felt the need to have that put in place, we didn’t this time adopt any new initiatives to take forward, deferring that decision to next December,” Ferguson-Pell said.
According to Chelen, other processes that may be reviewed are multi-faculty programs, communications with students and the withdrawal deadline.
“I think the university may be reconsidering moving the deadline by which you get a W back to be more in line with peer institutions like the University of Calgary,” Chelen said, referring to the U of A’s Nov. 7 withdrawal deadline.
The University of Calgary’s withdrawal deadline this year for fall-term courses is Dec. 7 and Apr. 16 for winter-term and full-year courses.
The taskforce has tackled a variety of issues since it was launched in 2010, including admissions policies around transferring credit to different programs or universities and policies in grading.
One of the committee’s landmark accomplishments was its review of exam deferral fees, which resulted in the General Faculties Council eliminating them last year.
However, the lion’s share of the work is done in working groups, Ferguson-Pell said. Each group works on a policy or process that needs revision, then forwards their report to the committee, which gives its guidance regarding implementation.
One of the areas that the committee wants to strengthen is how the recommendations of the committee are translated into action through a “translation agent.”
“We’re not going to be tracking these things through the tracking mechanisms of governance,” Ferguson-Pell said. “It actually has to do with how it gets into the fundamental operating processes of the university, so that’s where these people I think are going to be important.”
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4.
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