The KSA Student Rights Centre is here to help you navigate KPU’s internal procedures & paperwork in order to protect your rights. Sometimes maneuvering the university’s systems can become overwhelming and frustrating. That is why students need an advocate – someone who has a thorough knowledge of the University and is on their side.
The Student Rights Centre assists students involved in conflicts with administration and faculty – especially academic conflicts, misconduct accusations and complaints about KPU staff. If you are encountering a problem or if you need guidance or support with the University’s policies and procedures, we are here to help.
As KSA Advocates, we:
- Act as a non-judgmental and confidential support system for you during any conflict with the University
- Explain to you the procedures and regulations of the university and your rights and responsibilities as a student
- Put effort into making sure your rights are being upheld by the University’s administration and faculty members
- Provide you with any resources that will allow you to defend your rights and connect you with appropriate faculty and/or staff
- Assist in the preparation of appeal forms and letters
- Discuss possible courses of action, assist you in creating a suitable plan of action, and provide information on any complaint or appeal mechanisms that relate to your case
- Assist you in filling out your Student Loan Application Form and Student Loan appeals
- Connect you with information on financial aid resources
- Mediate issues of University-based loan approval and repayment, as well as student fee disputes
If you are suspected of committing an offense, or if you think you need to file a complaint against an instructor, university official or another student, the first step is to document in detail what has occurred. Write down the dates, times, locations, persons involved, and what was said and done by everyone involved as well as you can, then contact the Student Rights Centre immediately.
Have a question?
Great! We’d love to hear from you!
Plagiarism / Grade / Misconduct
KPU has an obligation to prevent plagiarism in the classroom. If an instructor suspects you have cheated on any educational activity, they are obliged to report it to the dean of their faculty. Sometimes faculty will promise not to do so because the incident is minor or an oversight, but deans may seek out those incidents and use them as justification for a harsher response if there is a later incident. Do not rely on a promise that an instructor will refrain from reporting.
Because any plagiarism decision is so impactful on a student, you have a right to participate before it is made and to appeal it afterwards. You should receive a copy of the instructor’s written allegations and have a chance to speak to the dean before they make a decision in order to offer an explanation or to describe any mitigating circumstances. After receiving a written decision, you can appeal it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This first appeal should go to the academic appeals committee, which is described below.
While these letters are drawn from multiple real events, they are significantly altered in the details in order to protect the identities of the students involved. They are provided as style examples and not as “true stories”.
Under the BC Human Rights Code, KPU is obliged to accommodate disabled students up “to the point of undue hardship”. In the classroom, this means that you can access learning technologies and other assistance by presenting medical information to KPU’s Services for Students with Disabilities department. You are only obliged to provide medical attestation of the limits of your ability and to work with SSD to find accommodations that will work for you. You do not need to divulge the nature or cause of your disability, or any symptoms that do not impact on your time at KPU. You also have a right to a learning environment free of harassment and discrimination, and can file a complaint or appeal on those grounds.
KPU has a procedure for students who are experiencing significant and disruptive life events to withdraw from classes with a W on their transcript past the usual withdrawal deadline. Every one of these situations is unique, so the procedure is slightly flexible, especially the documentation requirements.
In some cases, this is a very obvious event like an accident or sudden death in the family, but many others like the breakdown of a marriage or a mental health issue may not have an obvious starting point. You should approach your instructors to seek modifications or accommodations such as Incomplete contracts before applying for compassionate withdrawal. Meeting with a KPU counselor is also usually wise. You have until 20 days after marks come out to apply.
You also have the right to complain to KPU about the professionalism or competence of KPU employees. The SRC can help you to identify who to complain to and what information to include in your complaint. Formal complaints at KPU are confidential but not anonymous. Often, the person receiving your complaint will meet with you to discuss details. While you will probably be asked what outcome you are seeking from your complaint, you will probably not receive any financial or academic outcome from writing a complaint, and will probably not even be told what, if anything, has been done within KPU to address the complaint, or even whether KPU believes that the events you are complaining of occurred or were actually inappropriate. You have the right to push your complaint up to higher levels within KPU, but it is difficult to know whether to do so because of this lack of information.
KPU also has a protected disclosure system where anyone can make anonymous disclosures about serious ethical breaches to an external reporting agency. This isn’t a mechanism which is likely to lead to a tangible improvement for you or undo a harm that was done, but does allow you to report breaches of KPU policy or unethical behaviour with a lower risk of repercussions.
KPU students, faculty and staff have a right to a safe campus, and KPU has an obligation to take reasonable steps to keep the campus that way. Violent, threatening or harassing language or behaviour can lead to a range of sanctions. Students may be asked to write apologies or reflective essays, or may be temporarily or permanently banned from campus. Because these decisions are very impactful for everyone involved, they attract the highest standard for procedural fairness within the university. You should have the opportunity to know all of the information that will be used in the decision and to respond to it, and for the decision-making process to be particularly respectful and sensitive to your circumstances. You should be prepared to frankly discuss your feelings, and to set firm limits for how you are prepared to participate in the process. It is very important that you document everything, especially your interactions with KPU, and contact an advocate.
Any personally identifying information that KPU possesses about you is governed by the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). To comply with FIPPA, KPU will generally destroy information about you after it is no longer of use, and limit access to that information to people who have a legitimate need for it. You have the right to access to your own information and to provide corrections.
The KSA is governed by the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), which has slightly different requirements. The SRC will not share any information about your situation with KPU without your knowledge and consent, except in a significant emergency situation. You also have the right to access and correct any information that the KSA has about you, and access is also limited to people with a legitimate need – usually, only your advocate will know the details of your case.
KPU has defined procedures for handling plagiarism decisions, appeals and complaints. Decisions about facts are based on the “balance of probabilities”, or what is more likely than not to have happened. However, these procedures don’t always make sense in every circumstance. If there’s something about your circumstance that means that the KPU policy would be unfair if it were followed, you have the right to communicate that to the decision maker involved and have them consider varying the procedure. You also have the right to know what information was considered in making the decision, under what circumstances the decision would have gone one way or another, and why your circumstance justified the outcome that was chosen. If that information is missing from your decision letter, you should consider appealing the decision, even if the only outcome is that the decision maker has to explain themselves at the appeal hearing.
Academic Appeals Committee
The KPU academic appeals committee hears appeals of plagiarism decisions, grades and non-academic misconduct. The committee will be made up of the chair, who is a senior KPU administrator, a dean, a student and a faculty member, all from different faculties than the one the decision originated from. Appeal committee hearings usually also invite the person whose decision is under appeal to defend the merits and the procedure they followed in making it. In many cases, this will be the first time you will learn the procedure and the decision-maker’s thoughts on the arguments you originally put forward. Hearings can take months to schedule, and usually last one to two hours. Generally, the student will get to speak first to make their case, then the dean will respond, and then the student will get to speak again. The committee members will then ask questions and discuss the issues with everyone. The student then gets another chance for a closing statement, after which the appeals committee members and chair will deliberate. A written decision letter from the chair usually comes within one or two weeks.
While officially the committee only hears appeals that are based on unfairness or bias in the procedure of the first level, in practice the committee doesn’t always identify and understand bias procedural fairness arguments and often digs in to the merits of the decision under appeal anyway.
Performance / Attendance / Learning Contracts
KPU has policies governing attendance and performance contracts (ST1 and ST11) which set limits on when they can be used and what can be included in them. They should only be used in individualized continuous intake courses or courses that have been specifically designated as falling under this policy in the KPU academic calendar. These contracts can be appealed through the academic appeals committee.
Learning contracts are frequently used in mastery-graded courses such as Nursing placements. A learning contract should be a co-operative learning tool to help struggling students get back on track by clarifying exactly where a student is performing below the mark and what they can do to get above it. In mastery courses, this can sometimes mean doing work that was not on the course presentation as an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge or skills that were missed earlier. However, it is unfortunately common for faculty to present these contracts as an ultimatum, based on previous conversations with other faculty members and program staff. A good learning contract can be an opportunity for a student and instructor to work together to get the student back on track, but a bad learning contract can be very difficult for a student to work through. In that circumstance, consider consulting KPU counseling and/or the Student Rights Centre, and start carefully logging your interactions.
Co-op / Practicum Placements
While it is possible to appeal decisions related to your co-op or practicum placement, it is generally very difficult to do so. Appeal procedures usually take longer than most placements to even begin. Decisions, and therefore appeals, are often based on many small incidents or pieces of information, and require a deep discussion of the specific area of study, which deans and appeal committees may not be able to provide. Often, the person who is hearing your appeal has a prior relationship with the placement organization, which calls into question whether an appeal will be heard fairly. Some other schools have dedicated practicum review committees with subject matter experts including practitioners from outside of the university in order to mitigate these factors, but KPU does not.
Please be advised that while we will gladly prepare you for any academic hearings as well as accompany, support, and advise you through such hearings, we cannot and will not act as your lawyer. We cannot generally represent you in any proceedings with the faculty or administration. SRC advocates don’t necessarily “fix” students’ problems, but we will educate you and guide you through the University system in the hope of getting the best possible outcome.