Student Rights & Responsibilities Study
Following a survey in November 2017, and data analysis and report writing (that was completed in February 2017 by a team of three researchers employed with the Department of Research and Political Affairs of the Students’ Union of University of Alberta), the Students' Union published a report on "Student Rights and Responsibilities at University of Alberta: A Study Into Awareness, Perception and Experience among Undergraduates".
A comprehensive Executive Summary is provide below. A PDF of the complete report is available here.
The purpose of this first-ever and exploratory study was to examine the level of undergraduate awareness of University policies concerning student rights and responsibilities. We took a quantitative approach to data collection, using a web-based census survey with 1721 responses. The data collected was not weighted, had a female bias, and had an estimated margin of error of ±2%, 19 times out of 20. The purpose is to assess the gaps in knowledge to better engage with the student body.
Following is an overview of key findings:
- A majority of respondents (approximately 58%) indicated that they either “didn’t know much”, or “didn’t know anything at all” and very few were confident that they knew a lot about their rights and responsibilities.
- Of the five policies outlining students’ rights and responsibilities, students were most aware of the Code of Student Behaviour (78%) and the Grading Policy and Procedure (60%), However, 10% of respondents were aware of none of them.
- While slightly less half of all respondents knew where to find information about their academic rights and responsibilities, nearly 40% of respondents had no knowledge of where to look.
- A majority of respondents (nearly 60%) were unaware of appeal processes in case of disciplinary action against them.
- 31.69% students indicated “Students’ Union” whereas 21.99% and 19.67% students observed “Central University Administration” and “Faculty (administrative offices, staff and/or academic staff)”, respectively.
- Slightly less than 5% of the respondents had had experience with the discipline and complaints process (whether as a complainant, a respondent, or both). Amongst them, only a slim majority of students feel they have access to all the information they need about their discipline process.
- Less than half of students involved in disciplinary proceedings at the University of Alberta feel that the process educated them about their rights and responsibilities. Over a third of students feel the process to find information on how to make a complaint is difficult at the University of Alberta.
- In response to “what additional information or resources would have helped you go through your disciplinary process”, the two most frequently occurring responses were the need for additional resources online and in person, followed by better education of the disciplinary process and their responsibilities under the COSB.
Following is a list of recommendations based on the findings of this survey:
Recommendation #1: Reduce the gap in knowledge and awareness of rights and responsibilities among undergraduate students through education and outreach.
Recommendation #2: Provide easily accessible information on rights and responsibilities (especially procedural rights and responsibilities) to undergraduate students to meet the unmet need for information.
Recommendation #3: The Students’ Union should lead in educating undergraduate students on their rights and responsibilities, especially since majority of the respondents indicated seeking such information from the organization.
- InfoLink and the main Students’ Union office could have resources and/or knowledgeable staff to respond to students’ questions about their rights.
- The Students’ Union should take a proactive approach to educating students on their rights and responsibilities at strategic times of the year, including early in the year and during awareness weeks (such as rights surrounding the reporting of sexual violence during sexual assault awareness week or using existing campus events to discuss students’ rights and responsibilities in relation to those events).
- Collaborate with the University of Alberta to develop more effective techniques to educate students on their rights and responsibilities.
- The Students’ Union may wish to work with the University of Alberta to create a consolidated document that outlines all student rights and responsibilities at one place to improve awareness and accessibility of information among all undergraduates.