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Students often come to speak to the chair when they have a concern about a grade or an instructor. Conversely, instructors often rely on the chair for advice about how to handle challenging student issues. It is in the best interest of everyone involved to treat these concerns with respect and fairness.
Faculty within your department are often the first line of contact for students who are experiencing challenges. Faculty are encouraged to come and consult with you as their chair to help strategize about how to handle difficult student situations. Here are some tips:
- Make sure you are familiar with institutional policies and department guidelines.
- Know the limits of confidentiality (i.e.: risk of harm to self or others).
- Document these conversations for future reference, and to ensure there is a written record of decisions made and actions taken.
- Listen impartially to concerns brought to you from students about instructors, or from instructors about students.
- Consider potential extenuating circumstances (mental health, disability, socio-economic factors…), and be prepared to bring in other supports as needed.
- Ascertain the problem, and intervene at the lowest level.
- Encourage students to make an appointment to speak directly with their instructor, if they haven’t already done so (the same advice goes for instructor concerns about students).
- Ask for assistance: The Office of Student Support can help you navigate through issues of non-academic student conduct.
Camosun College students are required to comply with the standards of academic dishonesty set out in the Student Conduct Policy (E-2.5).
It is the responsibility of Camosun College Instructors and staff to take reasonable steps to prevent and to detect acts of academic dishonesty. It is an instructor’s responsibility to confront a student when such an act is suspected and to take appropriate action if academic dishonesty, in the opinion of the instructor, has occurred.
- Be familiar with and follow the Student Complaint Process, which relates to complaints about teaching and learning, other than those involving grades and formal human rights complaints. The process encourages students to discuss their concern, at (or as close to) the source of the concern as possible.
- The purpose of the student appeals policy is to provide a process for students who have reason to believe they have been graded unfairly or treated unjustly.
- If the student and instructor have discussed the issue and are still at an impasse, you can offer to mediate, and/or enlist the help of the Ombudsperson to assist you in mediating a solution.
- The Ombuds office is a place where students can go for help in dealing with conflicts or disputes on an informal basis. Camosun's Ombudsperson is an impartial, independent person whose major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to students. The Ombudsperson receives and investigates student complaints, reports on findings, and helps achieve just and equitable settlements.
- Make sure students are aware of other supports available to them, as appropriate (counselling, Centre for Accessible Learning, etc.)
Meeting with students
Meeting with students is part of your job – but it can expose you to a risk of violence or accusations of inappropriate conduct.
- Generally speaking, leave your door open when talking to students. If you need privacy, move to a space where you can be seen, but not overheard.
- Familiarize yourself with the Student Conduct Policy. It will help guide you in determining when a student is out of line, and what you should do about it.
- If you feel unsafe, get out of your office and into a public area.
- Don’t touch the student.
- Remain calm, but not passive.
- Then call College Safety at the emergency number (250)370-3075 and have someone assist you.
If you are planning to meet with a difficult student (and you are concerned about the potential for violence) contact Campus Security in advance, to assist you with strategies.
Supporting Students in Distress Guide is an excellent resource that will help you decide what actions to take when you become aware of a student who is exhibiting concerning, distressful or threatening behaviours. A student does not need to be violating any Camosun rules or regulations for you to be concerned.