Academic Advocacy

The Graduate Students’ Union at the University of Toronto provides its members with confidential advocacy services. If you are a current graduate student experiencing academic and/or administrative difficulties (including problems with your supervisor, department, or the university; charges of academic misconduct; petitions and appeals; discrimination and oppression), we can assist you with advice, information and representation. Any information you give will remain strictly confidential.

If you are experiencing academic difficulties and are considering making an academic appeal, we suggest that you contact the GSU for advice and information about your rights. Any information you give will be kept in strict confidence. We can also refer you to other people at U of T who can support you through the appeals process. You can contact us anonymously if you wish.

Contact:

Gail Fernando
UTGSU Membership and Advocacy Coordinator
Phone: 416-946-8699
Email: membership@utgsu.ca

Please note that the Membership and Advocacy Coordinator’s advocacy caseload is full. New advocacy cases will not be taken on until the new semester begins. If you are seeking advice or referrals, contact the Office of the Ombudsperson at: www.ombudsperson.utoronto.ca

What a UTGSU Advocate can do for you:

  • Listen to your concerns and take them seriously
  • Direct you to information regarding the appeal mechanisms and guide you through the policies, procedures, and practices that are appropriate for your situation
  • Discuss possible solutions
  • Advise you on how to rectify the situation
  • Offer to make inquiries to obtain facts when appropriate
  • Keep confidential records of your case

What a UTGSU Advocate cannot do for you:

  • The UTGSU takes an advisory role for students seeking advocacy. The student is expected to carry out the majority of the work.
  • The UTGSU will not fill out forms on the student’s behalf for the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee or the Graduate Academic Appeals Board, and is not a law office or legal service.

How to prepare your case:

  • Know the policies and procedures of your program, department, and faculty. With over 100 graduate programs at the University of Toronto, we may not be familiar with the rules and regulations specific to your program.
  • Know academic policy and procedures. The “I didn’t know” defense almost always ends with the student losing the case, which may have adverse consequences for the student’s academic and/or professional future.
  • Tell your advocate the truth. The UTGSU will not be able to defend you against issues we do not know about.

Guidelines for filing appeals:

  • Follow the guidelines for the appeals process. Various appeals committees will have deadlines when forms need to be handed in.
  • Follow the policies of programs, departments, the School of Graduate Studies, and the appeals committees. Failure to do so will adversely affect the outcome of the case.
  • Present evidence to support allegations of bias or discrimination.
  • Develop an argument that is coherent and focused.
  • Document all aspects of your case including timelines and all correspondence.

 

Preventive Medicine

It is preferable for you to resolve your problems quickly. We advise you to read the policies in the SGS Calendar. The formal appeals route is NOT quick. Try to forestall a formal appeal, if possible. In order to avoid any delays, remember: KEEP YOUR SUPERVISOR INFORMED. For example, if you are having health problems, are running out of money, will be away, require an extension, or need a letter from him or her by a certain date, please give your department plenty of notice, talk to the grad coordinator, and/or see your supervisor. Don’t assume anything; least of all that an overworked faculty member will remember what’s going on in your life after being told only once.

 

Other Resources
Conflict Resolution Centre for Graduate Students
Student Complaint Flowchart (Nov 2013) [pdf]
Downtown Legal Services: The Legal Clinic of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto
University of Toronto Office of the Ombudsperson
U of T Community Safety Office