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Advising & Support

Get support with advocating for your graduate student needs

Need someone to talk to? Don’t know who to contact?

The GSA advises graduate students experiencing challenges. We can help you with:

– Navigating university policies (e.g., how to launch a complaint under policy 33-ethical behaviour)
– Navigating conflict (e.g., with your supervisor, course instructor, or department)
– Filing a grievance, appeal, or petition
– Providing a support person for meetings with university administration
– Answering questions and providing information for resources on and off campus (e.g., accessing bursaries)
– Providing peer advice on various decisions impacting your graduate career (e.g., taking a leave of absence, switching programs)
– Providing help with equity and ethical based problems (e.g., experiencing discrimination or harassment)

Confidential advising sessions are by appointment only and are typically hosted by the GSA’s Student Wellness Coordinator. All sessions are confidential. If you have any questions, feel free to check out the documents below or reach out to the GSA office or Student Wellness Coordinator directly.

*Please note that GSA staff are not trained as lawyers or health professionals (e.g., counsellors).

Overview of University of Waterloo Policies

For the official text of UW Policies see the Secretariat Website

Holds that the university community must be just and respectful. No member of the University of Waterloo can interfere with the work and study environment of another member, including off campus. This policy has been violated if a member experiences discrimination (e.g. preferential treatment), harassment (e.g. unwelcome comments), sexual harassment (sexual comments or advances that become part of the work or study environment), poisoned environment (e.g. unsupportive or disrespectful comments or actions), or workplace harassment (unwelcome comments or actions against an individual in the workplace). If this policy has been violated, students can tell their supervisor or department chair. If the issue is above the department level, students can go to the dean, associate provost, or vice president.

All members of the University of Waterloo are expected to act with fairness and integrity. Policy 70 covers protection of academic freedom and procedural fairness. Examples of procedural fairness include being able to have someone accompany you to meetings with administration (e.g. GSA), participate in petition or grievance proceedings without threat, and to be heard by members who are not directly involved with the issue. Petitions (70 A) involve seeking for “exception or relief” from normal rules (e.g. dropping a course past a deadline). Grievances (70 B) involve a process when a student acknowledges that the rules were applied fairly, but a decision was made that was unfair or unreasonable (e.g. grading error). Graduate students can file a petition by submitting the appropriate form to the office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. Petition decisions are final. Students can file a grievance by first making a request to the person who made the decision (e.g. chair of a committee). If not satisfied, the student can file a Notice of Challenge form to their associate dean. Grievance decisions can be appealed under Policy 72.

This policy applies to students who are appealing a decision made under policies 33 (ethical behaviour), 70 B (grievances), or 71 (student discipline). In order to appeal, a student must submit a Notice of Appeal form within 10 work days to the chair of the Faculty Committee for Student Appeals or the University Committee for Student Appeals (depending on the issue). A student may appeal if they believe there is evidence that the original hearing was bias, there is new evidence, there was a serious procedural error made, insufficient weight was given to evidence, or if the penalty the student was given was unreasonable for the offence. A student cannot appeal based on being unhappy with University of Waterloo policy or if they neglected deadlines. Students cannot appeal things such as admission, program or course requirements, issues handled by UW Special Constables, or fees and contracts (e.g. a meal plan).

Holds that all intellectual property created through teaching or research activities is owned by the creators unless it was an assigned task by the administration, or the research was sponsored or contracted where a contract specifies otherwise. The University of Waterloo is entitled to a free licence to copy and use the material. Policy 73 covers authorship, collaborative work, copyright, patents, teaching materials, and data management. If an issue cannot be settled informally, students can go to the Vice President of University Research.

Applies to all graduate students holding teaching assistantships (TA) at the University of Waterloo. It states that the university must administer TAships in a “fair and equitable manner” and act in the “best interests of all students”. It also states that TAs are to be paid an hourly rate. Find current hourly rates for TAs and Research assistants here: https://uwaterloo.ca/graduate-studies-postdoctoral-affairs/current-students/graduate-teaching-assistantships-ta-and-graduate-research . Graduate students must be paid at the TA rate for doing TA related work (e.g., proctoring exams), even if it is not in their contract. TAships can range from 100-160 hours per term. A “half TA unit” may also be awarded.

Applies to all University of Waterloo students and acts of sexual violence that are related to the University of Waterloo (e.g., in a classroom, at an event, or has impacted the student’s academic performance). Policy 42 is designed to outline the roles of and responsibilities of members of the University of Waterloo when sexual violence occurs. If sexual violence has occurred, students are encouraged to reach out to the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (svpro@uwaterloo.ca) https://uwaterloo.ca/human-rights-equity-inclusion/svpro

Helpful Resources for Students

(access to information on a large majority of resources on campus):

https://uwaterloo.ca/campus-wellness/services

The GSA Office can help guide students through their rights and potential policy actions with confidential advising appointments. The GSA can also direct students to other helpful resources available on campus, advocate for students, and can accompany students to meetings with university administration as a support. Located on the third floor in the Student Life Centre. Students can also contact the GSA through here: https://gsauw.ca/contact/

Pushes for equitable opportunity for students with disabilities or illness. This office aids in creating individualized academic accommodation plans. Located in Needles Hall North (access@uwaterloo.ca 519-888-4567 ext. 35082).

This office is further divided into 1. Indigenous Initiatives (indigenousinitiatives@uwaterloo.ca) 2. Equity (equity@uwaterloo.ca) 3. Sexual Violence Response and Prevention (Amanda.cook@uwaterloo.ca or hreigen@uwaterloo.ca) 4. Conflict Management and Human Rights (jdeboer@uwaterloo.ca or hreigen@uwaterloo.ca) Located in Commissary building (hreigen@uwaterloo.ca 519-888-4567 ext. 40439).

Provides guidance on graduate academics, awards and funding, registration and course enrolment, and professional skill building (e.g. GRADtalks). Located in Needles Hall. Students can also contact the GSPA directly through here: https://uwaterloo.ca/graduate-studies-postdoctoral-affairs/about/contact-us

Provides confidential services to students struggling with their mental health. Counselling services also hosts various workshops and information on how to help someone else. Located in Needles Hall. Students can contact Counselling Services through calling 519-888-4567 ext. 32655

A mental wellness resource that offers confidential support 24/7 and 365 days a year in 22 countries. Call anytime for issues of any kind, including stress and anxiety, substance abuse, career counselling, relationship conflict, and more. This service is multilingual, gender inclusive, and faith inclusive. Find more information on this service here: http://studentcare.ca/rte/en/IHaveAPlan_UniversityofWaterloograduatestudentsGSA_EmpowerMe_EmpowerMe

Want to know more about our advising service?

Q-How do I book a confidential advising session?

A-You can start accessing the GSA’s advising and support service by contacting us through here: https://gsauw.ca/contact/ . To schedule further sessions, you can do so through this form again, or contact our Student Wellness Coordinator directly at gsa- wellness@uwaterloo. 

 

Q-When should I book a confidential advising session?

A-You can book a confidential advising session whenever you think it would help with your situation. However, if you are experiencing an issue you would like some advice or help with we strongly recommend contacting us as soon as possible. In many cases, we can help you more if you come talk to us near the beginning of an issue. 

 

Q-I want to meet with the Student Wellness Coordinator in person. Is this possible?

A-Because of COVID-19 and office movement, our advising and support services are currently only operating virtually. Stay tuned for updates.

 

Q-When are confidential advising sessions scheduled?

A-When scheduling a confidential advising session, you will work with our Student Wellness Coordinator to decide on a day and time that works for both of your schedules. Sessions typically occur sometime Monday-Friday from 8:00 am-4:00 pm, but virtual sessions are available outside of this time frame if needed.

 

Q-How long is the wait before I can meet with the Student Wellness Coordinator?

A-In most cases, our Student Wellness Coordinator can meet with students within a week of you contacting us.

 

Q-What happens if the Student Wellness Coordinator can’t provide me with all the advocacy and support I need?

A-If the advice and resources that the Student Wellness Coordinator is able to provide is not enough to resolve the issue, they will ask you for permission to share information about your situation with a GSA executive who will then provide further support and advocacy when needed.

 

Q– I am facing an issue that is related to equity (e.g., discrimination). Is there anyone else besides the Student Wellness Coordinator I should contact at the GSA?

A-If you are facing an equity based issue, you can also consider contacting our Equity Coordinator at gsa-equity@uwaterloo.ca

 

Q-Is there a limit to how many confidential advising sessions I can have?

A-No. 

 

Q-Do confidential advising sessions cost money outside of my student fees?

A-No. 

 

Q-I have already started on a route to solving an issue. Is it too late to book a session?

A-No. Although we encourage students to come talk to us as early as possible, you can come talk to us at any point you wish.

 

Q-How confidential are the sessions?

A-Your specific situation is only shared with other GSA staff and university admin if you provide consent for this or if the Student Wellness Coordinator has reason to believe that someone (including yourself) is in danger. Sometimes, for the purposes of advocacy for the graduate student population, issues are brought forward to GSA executives, but if consent was not given to disclose the case, the issue is discussed in broad terms and without any identifying information (e.g., your name, program, any specific details that would lead to your identification are not shared). 

 

Q-Will anything I say be documented?

A– Yes. At the end of each session, the Student Wellness Coordinator (or another staff conducting the session) fills out a form that summarizes the session and how to contact you if needed in the future. These forms are stored indefinitely in a file that only the Student Wellness Coordinator and GSA Vice President Admin has access to. The Student Wellness Coordinator is the only person who views this file unless permission was granted to share by you.

 

Q-I went to a confidential advising session and was asked about what program I am in. Why is this being done?

A-We collect information like this to be able to identify if a larger issue is occurring in a faculty or program (e.g., if 6 students approach us about a problem with the same professor). Being able to spot trends like this allow us to better advocate for the broader graduate student community the University of Waterloo. 

 

Q-Who can I contact if I have feedback about the advising sessions?

A-If you would like to provide feedback, you can tell the Student Wellness Coordinator (if comfortable doing so) at gsa-wellness@ uwaterloo.ca. You can also submit your general feedback to the GSA office here: https://gsauw.ca/contact/

 

Q-Can I bring a support person with me to the confidential advising session?

A-Yes.

 

Q-The issue I am experiencing is happening to a group of people. Can a few of us join in on the session?

A– Yes.

 

Q-How do I go about requesting that a GSA staff member sit in on a meeting I am having with university staff/faculty/administration?

A-You can request this by contacting the main GSA office here: https://gsauw.ca/contact/. If you have already been in contact with our Student Wellness Coordinator, you can also ask them directly as they might be most familiar with your situation. GSA staff are not full time employees and do have other things booked in their schedule. Keeping this in mind, please ensure that the person you would like to have sit in on the meeting is asked for availability before picking a meeting time. Please also ensure that you ask us at least a week before the meeting so we can confirm our presence or put you into contact with a different GSA staff member who is available at that time.

 

Q-What does a GSA staff member do when they are sitting in a meeting as a support person for me?

A-They can do a variety of things to support you such as answering questions you have, taking meeting notes for you, hosting a debriefing session for you after the meeting if desired, and acting as an informal witness to the meeting proceedings. 

 

Q-Can I get legal advice during a confidential advising session?

A-No. The GSA staff are not lawyers and can therefore not provide you with legal advice. If you need legal advice specifically, we encourage you to check out our legal protection program here: https://gsauw.ca/services/legal-aid/ 

 

Q-Is the Student Wellness Coordinator a trained mental health professional?

A-No. The GSA staff member hosting the confidential advising session is not a trained health professional. We provide assistance in the form of peer support/advice. With that said, our Student Wellness Coordinator is a graduate student who has aided over 70 students since starting their role and is well informed of University of Waterloo policies, departments, processes, and resources. 

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Questions

For any questions and to book an appointment, contact us.

Last Updated: July 19, 2022

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