Complaints about SAIT complaint process
SAIT needs a better system for dealing with students’ complaints about instructors, said SAITSA vice-president academic Matt Armstrong.
Since it was placed online in the fall, Armstrong has had several students use SAITSA’s ‘concern or complaint’ form to ask for help in dealing with instructors.
“The fact that they’re putting it on our grievance form online shows that they don’t know where to go. They don’t know where else to turn,” he said.
While students are encouraged to go to their academic chairs with issues, the current process for having complaints resolved is slow and inconsistent, he said.
Armstrong added that there is not enough open reporting done on the number of complaints received and their outcomes.
“SAIT’s really segregated in its policies,” said Armstrong. “You don’t have any system, and you don’t know where to go. And, where you do go is kept quite internal to SAIT.”
The current formal instructor review program, the SIR II, which is typically administered four times per year for every instructor, is not comprehensive enough according to Armstrong.
Every student should have the opportunity to review every one of their instructors, he suggested.
However, SAIT associate vice president of academic development Lee Haldeman, said the post-secondary has found that their issue-resolution process works well, and every effort is made to ensure that students’ concerns are treated very seriously.
“The complaint could be based on a wide variety of factors, so the chair would use their judgment… to find a specific way to deal with that specific issue,” said Haldeman.
Instructors who receive lower ratings on their SIR’s go through a formal process to help them correct any deficiencies.
If students have issues that need to be dealt with immediately, Haldeman said, whenever possible, they should go directly to their instructor to resolve it. If it is a larger issue that cannot be solved one-on-one, academic chairs and deans are available to hear complaints.
SAIT has a diverse student body. Included amongst the 10,000 students of all ages and backgrounds, over 1,000 international students study at SAIT.
Counsellors and Students’ Association representatives can help direct students to resources appropriate to their individual issues and, if the student is hesitant to come forward about serious concerns, they can call the discrimination and harassment hotline listed in SAIT’s student resources directory.
Third-year communications technician apprentice Jon Flaman doesn’t see harassment and discrimination as an issue at SAIT.
“I don’t think that people would generally have a problem with teachers due to a racial problem or anything like that. It’s just more like ‘I don’t like this guy’s teaching style,’” he said.
Flaman said his experience with SAIT instructors has been positive overall and an explanation for issues might be that, “People just like to complain.”
Haldeman said SAIT strives for student satisfaction.
“What I’ve seen and experienced is that the organization is very focused on doing the right thing, and we have stated values and principles, so fairness, integrity, respect, safety, and transparency and we try to live by those.”
Haldeman said that if their current process for dealing with student issues was proven to be completely ineffective, SAIT would make necessary changes.
“If SAIT continues to listen to what the students are concerned about, we can continuously adjust to meet their needs.”