Understanding the Student Charter

Mount Allison Students’ Union publishes the Student Charter of Rights and Responsibilities

MASU has been working on the Charter since early last spring. Mara Ireta Gordon/Argosy

On Jan. 20, MASU announced the publication of the Student Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. The purpose of the Charter is to combine all student rights and responsibilities into one cohesive and accessible document. The Charter is also meant to make explicit some of the previously unwritten principles that support the student-University relationship.

The Charter has been in the works since April 1, 2019, when the Students’ Administrative Council passed a motion to endorse the Student Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. A final version of the Charter was approved by Dr. Jean-Paul Boudreau, the University president, more recently.

The Charter explicitly defines individual and student rights and responsibilities; student employee, researcher and volunteer rights and responsibilities; collegial governance rights; academic rights and responsibilities; and community rights and responsibilities. It also outlines the role of the newly instated Student Charter Advisory Committee as well as the amendment and ratification procedure.

Some notable rights and responsibilities outlined in the Charter include the right to reasonable workload expectations for courses, the right to enough information to make course and degree choices with due regard to program and policy changes, the right to learn in a campus environment that embraces diversity, respect and inclusion, and the right to receive accommodations for any documented disability.

Prior to the publication of the Charter, there was no centralized location where students could access information on their rights and responsibilities. According to MASU President Emelyana Titarenko, “Some students were reaching out to our MASU executive or our university ombudsperson while others would rely on the Student Life Office to guide them to the right policy or procedure.”

The Charter itself is enforceable. Appendix A outlines key documents and legislation that are in place to address student concerns or inquiries. Some examples include the Policy on Students with Disabilities, Anti-Racism Education and Response Policy Procedures, the Right to Information and Privacy Act, and the MASU Constitution.

“As with most documents of this sort, rights are enforceable whereas responsibilities help in making sure that no one’s rights are being disregarded,” said Titarenko.

Many post-secondary institutions publish some version of a student charter with similar goals in mind. Titarenko said that the Mount Allison Charter was created with some guidance from Bishop’s University, St. FX, Saint Mary’s University and McGill University.

In addition to seeking external feedback, the MASU also consulted Mt. A students in the writing of the Charter. Drafts of the Charter were shared with MASU councillors, who gathered feedback from students-at-large. “We shared Draft 1.16 with the entire student body via email to get feedback there as well,” said Titarenko. “Finally, through the MASU Academic Affairs Committee, our VP academic at the time was able to get input from the committee members at large.”

The MASU also said that position papers and releases on academic freedom provided for by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the American Association of University Professors helped inform much of the present Charter.

In the release published by the MASU last week, it was emphasized that the Charter should re-orient the student-University relationship “as collaborative rather than opposed.” When asked if this had been an issue previously, Titarenko answered, “To some extent, yes. I think because access to procedures and policies isn’t something the University constantly promotes, some students would at times feel as if the University did not have their best interest in mind. This charter allows students to see that that is not the case in the same manner – it educates the students of what their responsibilities are as well.”

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