OCAD U complaint resolution 101

Mini-version of Infographic showing complaints process

Mistakes happen. Conflict also happens. Occasionally, even unfair decisions happen. The good news is: when one of these things happens to you, there is almost always a means of getting to some sort of resolution.

Like all universities, OCAD University has complaints and appeals processes in place for most types of decisions. These processes might not ultimately get you the resolution you want, but they will lead you to someone who will take the time to review your situation and make a fair decision.

Navigating our myriad complaints and appeals processes can be a bit daunting and I know most of you relate better to visual communication than text so I asked the recent OCAD U grads in Now Creative Group to help.  Of course, in true OCAD U style, they couldn’t design just any old infographic. Instead, they turned the challenge into an art project.

And so, after lots of re-arranging of coffee cups, we present “OCAD, Y U Mad? The OCAD U Collaborative Guide to Complaint Resolutions” (click the title to download the file as an accessible PDF).

Our starting point was to categorize the essential nature of what’s got you fuming: Was it a decision somebody made? Is it about how someone is treating you? Or is it about the operation of a program, service or facility? Being able to isolate the nature of the concern — and there may be situations where more than one applies — will help you figure out the process to follow.

Some good principles to keep in mind when you have a complaint: give people the benefit of the doubt. Try to work it out in person first before you take it to the formal level or resort to public shaming. Explain your point clearly and succinctly. Keep it civil. And get support if you need it.

Try following the trail of half-drunk coffee cups below to get a sense of the various policies and processes in place at OCAD U to help you.  A text version of the same information appears below the graphic for those of you who prefer that medium.

*NOTE: The policies and procedures here pertain to undergraduate students. Graduate students have a similar, parallel set of policies and procedures outlined in the Graduate Studies Handbook.

Infographic using coffee cups to descrbe complaints process at OCAD U (also repeated in text below)

Ok, so the coffee cups only hold so much information. For those of you looking for more, here’s some detail:

I’m unhappy with a decision!

Ok, fair enough. But what’s the nature of the decision?

Is it a grading matter?

If the course is in progress…

  • Consult the OCAD U Grading Policy to see  if your instructor is in compliance. If not:
  • Talk to your instructor first
  • If not resolved, consult the Chair of the program in which the course is offered. For Liberal Arts & Science courses, consult the Associate Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences

If it’s a final grade, then the Grade Appeal policy and process might be an option for you.

Is it an administrative decision?

Most decisions are based in policy. Identify the policy (e.g. Student Petitions, Academic Standing, Minors, etc.). Some decisions are final and some are subject to appeal. If there’s an avenue of appeal outlined in the policy, follow the process as outlined.

Do you feel the policy was followed properly? If not, write to the person in charge of the unit that made the decision outlining where you think the error in policy/procedure was made.

The OCAD Student Union’s Student Advocate can help you identify the right person and prepare your letter.

You may find that the policy was followed properly, but you object to the policy itself. Well — guess what! — policies can be changed too. It’s a longer process that involves lots of consultation and sometimes debate, but each year our Senate and Board of Governors make changes to policies. Get in touch with either the OCAD Student Union or your Senate or Board representative to advocate for a policy change. While getting a policy changed may not ultimately affect the decision that impacted you, it will impact students in the future.

Is it fees-related?

Are you trying to get a refund? Check the refund schedule to find out if you’re eligible for a tuition refund.

Do you think there’s a mistake on your account? Check with Student Accounts.

I don’t like how I’m being treated!

Ok, not cool. So the process you follow depends on who you’re upset with.

Is it a staff or faculty member?

  • It’s always best practice to try talking to the person first and clearly outlining your concern and the impact.
  • If your concern still isn’t resolved, take it to the staff or faculty member’s supervisor. Faculty are accountable to the Chair/Director of their program. Program Chairs/Directors are accountable to the Dean of the Faculty. If you’re still not sure who reports to who, check out OCAD U’s organizational charts, which are delineated for the academic and administrative sides of the house.
  • Human rights concerns are addressed under OCAD U’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy (PDF).

Is it another student?

  • Again, I always suggest trying working it out directly first. But if that doesn’t work, there are some options in specific circumstances.
  • Our Non-academic Misconduct Policy outlines expectations around behaviour and how to make a complaint of misconduct.
  • The Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy (PDF) defines harassment, discrimination and bullying and what you can do about it.

Is your complaint about a service, a program or a facility?

Sometimes it’s not a specific decision or an individual person that’s the subject of your concern, but the state of an entire operation — the way a service is run, or the state of a facility, for example.

Can you identify who’s in charge?

If you can, then it’s good form to try to raise the issue with the person responsible first, before going above them. It’s nice to give staff the opportunity to fix the problem first, before getting them in trouble with the boss. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to figure out the structure of the department and identify the supervisor of the area you’re concerned about. Again, OCAD U’s organizational charts can be helpful with this.

 If you can’t figure out who’s responsible, just ask! You can ask at the service you’re upset about, or ask the Student Union, or ask me, the AVP Students (@deannefisher)! If we don’t know the answer, we’ll figure it out and get back to you.