NAITSA introduces new advisor position for academic support

by | Aug 31, 2023 | News

Students have a new support system for dealing with academic challenges: NAITSA’s Student Academic Rights Advisor. Renata Medeiros, former NAITSA VP Academic and new Student Academic Rights Advisor, can help students with “basically anything they are struggling with.” 

Medeiros can advise students on a number of concerns, including accusations of cheating, plagiarism or disagreements with instructors. She can also act as an advocate in meetings with program chairs or other NAIT officials. “I can go to a meeting with the Student Resolution Office with [students], as a support person. I am not there to talk for them. I will be a silent note taker,” Medeiros explained. “Sometimes the student [doesn’t] feel comfortable talking to someone from NAIT, the student and I can have a conversation prior, they can tell me everything that they’ve been going through, everything that they want to express to the NAIT staff, and I can talk on behalf of the student.” 

NAITSA has been imagining this position for “a few years now,” Medeiros explained, but the timeline to hire and create the position was sped up after NAIT found the ombuds role redundant at the beginning of this fiscal year. “From experience and working with the Resolution Office, I know that they would try their best to be as fair as possible, and to really look at the student side. But it’s good that the students also have an additional resource to go to.” 

Although an ombuds-type role “is not commonly found in Canadian post-secondary institutions” according to Gerard Hayes, NAIT VP Students and Campus Life, he assured the Nugget in an email that NAIT’s priority is to “ensure that students feel supported and heard throughout their journey with at [SIC] NAIT.” 

NAIT also has a Student Resolution Office, though Medeiros explained they focus more on academic integrity violations. “If the student has been feeling like they were a target of bullying or that instructor has been saying some very inappropriate things, then that’s where they would go to, to the Student Resolution Office to file that complaint against the instructor, or even against some other NAIT staff or also a student.” 

But approaching the Student Resolution Office can be awkward for some students, especially when their complaint revolves around NAIT. “Even though the staff is very approachable, very friendly, and they’re there to help students, the students still have that concern on the back of their mind,” Medeiros explained. If students do face challenges or feel issues are not being addressed, Hayes urged students to contact him.

Ultimately, Medeiros believes that the various resources for conflict resolution are a necessity in any post-secondary institution. “Especially with NAIT being such a multicultural school, there will always be disagreements. And even if it’s not disagreements, just misunderstandings,” said Medeiros. “That’s also why this position was created, to support those students, to understand how the education here at NAIT works, how the process here at NAIT works.” 

“I think that [students] know they have rights. They absolutely know that. But they are not 100 per cent sure what those rights are, and how to act on them.” 

Students can book an appointment with the Student Academic Rights Advisor online, by phone, or by visiting the NAITSA Office (O108). 

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