Concordia University, Montreal

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Vol. 13 No. 22. March 16, 1989

Laser Centre studies light, effects

Picosecond spectroscopy lab only one in Canada r

by Stuart Oakley

here is a small room on the 11th floor of the Henry F. Hall Build- ing. Within lies a remarkable machine that allows for thestudy of light and its effects on chemicals. The room is the nerve centre for Picosecend Spectros- copy in the Department of Chemistry at Concordia.

The unique thing about the centre is that it is the only one in Canada that enables both students and people from the industrial world access to its facili- ties. People come from just about every- where to do research at the centre. David Sharma, head of laser operations at the centre, says there are a number of good reasons why people choose Concordia to do their research. ‘We are very accessible in that I can usually book someone into the center with a month’s notice. Other places in the United States, for example, have a very long waiting list. We also give good service, and are quite reasonable in terms of cost,’”’ says Sharma. The centre currently charges a flat fee of $50 per day to its users.

Another unique quality is that Shar- ma was the first person in Canada to create a picosecond laser for use in chemistry.

Developed at NRC

“No chemistry department has had a picosecond laser for research before,” says Sharma. He developed the picose- cond laser for chemistry while working at the National Research Council (NRC) between 1974 and 1978.

Spectroscopy is the study of light and how it affects things like chemicals; in short, how light behaves. A picose- cond is the pulse of the light beam or laser which is measured at 10 to the -12th of a second.

Part of the research done at the centre deals with solar energy. Cooper

Langford, Associate Vice-Rector for.

Research at Concordia and part of the Chemistry department, is currently using the centre’s laser technology in his research on the effects of certain chemi- cals in the environment. By using solar energy, Langford hopes to degrade harmful elements, such as PCBs from our environment, says Sharma.

Other research may involve bio-

chemistry applications or medical appli- cations.

“Research really depends on the chemical used and what effects the picosecond laser has on that chemical,” says Sharma.

The picosecond laser is not an industrial laser in the sense that it cannot cut through solid material. As of yet there is no real industrial application, it is solely for research purposes, though industrial scientists do use the facilities.

Sharma recieved his.doctorate in Chemistry from Bauaras University in India and taught in England before coming to Canada in 1973. He is current- ly teaching quantum mechanics at Con- cordia. This is his first semester teaching at the University since he established the Canadian Centre for Picosecond Spec- troscopy at Concordia in 1981. The centre has been in operation since 1983 and has been funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) at a cost of $500,000.

by Ken Whittingham

hat do you really think of Concordia? Whatever your opinions, you may soon have

achance to share them with the rest of us.

The University is conducting a six- month-long “attitudinal survey’ to determine people’s impressions of our programs, our services, our facilities, and how we contribute to higher educa- tion in general.

Developed with the assistance of the communications marketing firm of Kelly Lavoie and IDM Research, the survey includes a mix of focus groups, face-to- face interviews, telephone interviews and written questionnaires. Queries are being directed primarily at students, faculty, staff and alumni, but several outside

Says the proud head of laser operations at Concordia,

Charles Bélanger

David Sharma, “No chemistry

department has had a picosecond laser for research before.”

Major survey launched to solicit views on life at Concordia

4 groups have also been targeted (such as parents, CEGEP students and advisors,

and members of the business commu- _


The project is probably the most wide-ranging attitudinal survey ever undertaken by the University to deter-


mine people’s perceptions of who we are and how we perform. Those questioned will include present and potential anglo- phone and francophone students (both graduate and undergraduate), their par- ents, potential employers of Concordia

See SURVEY page 14

Note: Due to the Easter Holiday there will be no TTR next week,

but this week’s is chock-full.

e The Annual Report of the Ombuds Office, pp. 5-12 e Library News, pp. 2-4

Page 2 THE THURSDAY REPORT March 16, 1989


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Wy tnoacioaneamtl ae

Discovering Citation


f the term “citation index” strikes a less-than-familiar chord, you may find that the citation indexes in your libraries are undiscovered _ treasures. Science Citation Index (SCI) and Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) provide researchers with several means to identify publications on topics which may range from highly specific to broad and inter-disciplinary. SCI and SSCI, like other indexes to the literature, create subject and author indexes to articles appearing in a large number of journals. Unlike other index- es, however, they also provide access to the literature of a subject field from a unique approach, that of linking citing and cited literature. The underlying principle is that there is a meaningful relationship between the works of, authors when one is cited by or cites another. Indeed, when an author cites a previously published work, this trans- mits the message that there is some reason for bringing it to our attention; “we assume that the cited work has some relevance to the subject and may be worthy of investigation. The reverse can be said as well: articles which cite a work of known relevance have the probability of being useful and relevant. Citation indexes enable us to discover articles with this potential relevance, using as a start- ing point known works which these new articles cite in their bibliographies or - footnotes. The evident advantage of this method of literature searching should become apparent: we are moving our research forward in time, obtaining more

recent papers on a topic, as opposed to the traditional practice of tracking down references given in our starting article and which naturally pre-date it. The following is a summary of the various parts of the citation indexes and how they are used as an integrated unit.

“Citation Index’ is an alphabetical listing by author of all the references (cited items) found in footnotes and bibliographies of journals covered in SCI or SSCI. To search the Citation Index you would check the name of any author known to have published material rele- vant to your subject. If any of this author’s previously published works have been cited during the period covered by the index you are consulting, the cited item will appear in order of publication date. Following each cited item on the list will be the names of all authors who have cited the particular work, with a brief reference to the source publication in which the citing appeared. For a more complete description of the citing item, that is, the source article, one must proceed to the Source Index.

The Source Index is the alphabetical list of authors of the source articles (which are also the citing articles that appear in the Citation Index arranged under the names of the authors they have cited). First authors only are listed, with the title of the article(s), and biblio- graphic information about the source publication. In addition, the Source Index gives the corporate affiliation (name and address) of first authors. Names of second and other authors refer

Computerized Reference Service

Now that the libraries have intro- duced CD-ROM, don’t forget that we also still offer online database searches!

The computerized Reference Service is a dialogue with a computer which provides the user with a tailor-made search of the literature on a given topic. Computer searches are conducted on databases which often correspond to printed indexes such as ERIC, BIOLOG- ICAL ABSTRACTS, INDEX MEDI- CUS, PSYCHOLOGICAL’ ABST- RACTS, SOCIOLOGICAL ABSTRACTS, etc.

This service is open to the Concordia community: students, faculty, research- ers, administrators, and other staff.

Concordia has contracts with several vendors, and can access approximately

400 databases in the areas of science, technology, business, medicine, eco- nomics, social sciences, humanities, fine arts and current affairs.

The computer can save the user involved in complex research many hours

.of going through volumes of printed

indexes; it is more up-to-date than printed indexes; it can combine several concepts in a single step, thereby offering a highly personalized service.

A search usually costs about $10, but charges can vary.

For more information, ask at the Reference Desk in any of the libraries, or contact your Subject Librarian (who will perform the search for you) for an appointment.

Library News

‘| pe

Concordia Librarians Publish Book

We are pleased to be able to report that two Concordia librarians, Joy Bennett and Gabriella Hochmann, are the co-compilers of a recently published annotated bibliography on the critical works written on Simone de Beauvoir. The bibliography is international in scope and includes criticism written in all major European languages English, French, Spanish, Italian and German. References are given to general critical articles and books, book reviews, interviews and obituaries. Annotations are objective rather than critical, but cross-references are given to opposing opinions and extended discussions. For

ease of use, the book is fully indexed.

This work should prove to be invaluable to students and scholars in the areas of women’s studies, literature and philosophy as well as anyone with a curiosity about the woman who has an Institute named after her at Concordia


The full reference for this work is as follows: Simone de Beauvoir; an annotated bibliography. Compiled by Joy Bennett and Gabriella Hochmann. New York: Garland Publishing, 1988 (volume 774 in the series, Garland

reference library of the humanities).

the reader to the first author for the complete reference. A researcher can, of course, check for the most recent journal papers of any author by looking at the Source Index for the current year. The indexes appear bi-monthly and are cumulated in an annual volume at year- end.

The Corporate Index can be con- sulted to locate works of authors affili- ated to a particular organization. There are two sections to-the Corporate Index, a Geographic section and an Organiza- tion section. Knowing either the location (country and city) or name of an organi- zation (research institute or university department, for example) will give access to the names of those affiliated authors who have published in the particular period. Once again, the Source Index would be consulted for the full descrip- tion of the source item.

Permuterm Subject Index of SCI and SSCI is a natural language index which permits searching by subject, using search terms which would be expected to coincide with the language of authors currently writing in the field. Titles of the source articles are indexed in such a way that every significant title word is paired with every other significant word in that title. For each two-word combination which occurs once or more in the titles, the first authors’ names are given. The Source Index is used to obtain all bibliographic detail. In using such natu- ral language indexes it is important to consider possible variations in terminol- ogy which authors might use. New terms which enter a research field are immedi- ately picked up by such indexes and lead the researcher to the latest publications on any topic. The Permuterm Subject Index can also be useful if you have only a partial or incomplete reference to an article title, with no other information to help locate the source.

Citation indexes play another, and

more contentious, role in citation analy- sis. They enable us, and others, to see how often any work has been cited from its publication date until the present. Researchers may find this to be of real interest as they discover others who are presumably working in a related area. There can be a glow of satisfaction (or of surprise) that someone actually read. your Master’s thesis, or at least parts thereof! The citation index databases are amenable to extensive analysis, including that of frequency of citation of individ- ual works, authors and journals. How such analyses are interpreted is, of course, the contentious issue: Using frequency of citation as evaluative crite- ria has many critics, primarily because quantitative rather than qualitative fac- tors are the determinants. The producers of SCI and SSCI, the Institute for Scientific Information, Inc. (ISI) state that such strictly quantitative and objec- tive counts have an admitted limitation, but that ‘“‘an author’s or a paper’s frequency of citation has been found to correlate well with professional. stand- ing.” They do not claim that frequency of citation should be used as a sole measure for any purpose, but believe that it provides “a useful objective criterion not previously available.”

To. draw your own conclusions about citation indexes, take a look at SCI and/ or SSCI at the Concordia Libraries. Science Citation Index is at the Science and Engineering Library (call number INDEX Z 7401 S365) while Social Sci- ences Citation Index is available both at Norris and Vanier Libraries (call number INDEX H 50 S65 +). ISI also produces Arts and Humanities Citation Index which is not available in print form at

‘Concordia but its database version can

be accessed online. Concordia’s refer- ence librarians will be happy to help you discover the citation indexes.

March 16, 1989 THE THURSDAY REPORT Page 3


To The Head Librarian:

Recently, it has been impossible to find a seat in the Science and Engineer- ing Library. It has come to my attention that many of the occupied seats are being taken up by students belonging to other facutlies (sic) (i.e., Commerce, Arts, etc... ). v2

Similarly, other students come in early in the morning, deposite (sic) some books at a desk, and subsequently leaveing (sic) the library to attend classes or other functions (sometimes for hours at a time). Their inconsiderate ways/ ‘actions are depriveing (sic) science stu- dents (for whom the library was meant for) of studying space. .

Can immediate action be taken to rectify this problem.


This letter addresses two age-old problems in the Science and Engineering Library (S.E.L.).

The first problem relates to the fact that science and engineering students often cannot find any seat free in S.E.L.

This is particularly frustrating for those who must make use of the Refer- ence, Index and Periodicals collections. Materials in these collections do not circulate and therefore, must be used in the library. It is very difficult to use them while you are standing up!

What is the solution to this part of the problem? Concordia Libraries are open to. all Concordia students. Since there are so many classes given in the Hall Building it is obvious that students who are between classes would like a place to study in the same building. Thus, many non-science, non-engineering students gravitate towards the Science and Engi-

- neering Library.

There are actually three “rooms” in the Hall Building which fall under the jurisdictional of S.E.L. There is Room 431 (an open room with no collection and

where group discussion is perfectly acceptable), Room 437 (the SEL Periodi- cals Reading Room, consisting of back runs of journals only) and Room 1031 (the Science and Engineering Library, consisting of all the rest of the collection and all services). We would strongly recommend and very much appreciate if students not requiring the non-circulat- ing materials on the 10th floor make use of the rooms on the 4th floor. There are no staff available to enforce such a recommendation so we are relying on the consideration of one library user for another to try to solve the seat shortage problem.

The second area of concern expressed in the letter relates to students who leave their books in a certain spot for hours while they leave the library. The

bottom line as far as the libraries are concerned is there are no reserved seats. Anyone who leaves unattended posses- sions for any length of time risks having them taken during their absence. The libraries have many signs posted warning users of this (sad-but-true) fact.

If you notice that a seat has not been sat upon for a reasonable amount of time, e.g., more than the amount of time it takes to get to the bathroom and back, feel free to use that seat. If there are notebooks or other items on the table or carrel, just push them aside. The security of those items is the sole responsibility of the owner.

Once again, there are no staff who can be assigned to monitor unoccupied seats so don’t be shy if you see a vacant seat, sit down!

Oversize Books

Oversize books are volumes that are too large to fit properly onto the regular sized library shelving. At Norris and Vanier Libraries, these books are kept in a separate area the Oversize collec- tion. Here, wider shelves allow these BIG books to stand upright. The Oversize collection at Norris is on the 6th floor near the Circulation Desk. At Vanier, Oversize books are shelved along the north wall on the second floor. Books shelved in these areas can be identified by the O-S designation (above the call number) on the cards filed in the Cata- logue and on the spine labels of the books themselves. Oversize books can be borrowed just like any other books in the library’s circulating collection. However, | because the size of these books makes their bindings fragile, we ask that you return any of these books directly to the Circulation Desk instead of pushing them into the Return Book Drop where they may easily be damaged.

Let Our Fingers Do The Walking

As most: library users know, com- puters are more and more commonplace in today’s libraries. Terminals are visible in various areas and are used for a variety of tasks, e.g., lending books and produc- ing customized bibliographies.

The staff providing Reference Ser- vice are also frequently seen sitting in front of VDT monitors near the Refer- ence Desks in all three libraries. What these staff are doing may come as a surprise to those of you who have never made use of this service. Through a number of databases and networks, they are locating specific items you require for your study or research in some other library. These items may be books, journals, conference proceedings or ref- erence materials. 28

The search in essence checks the

computerized versions of library cata- logues (for example, CISTI Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information in Ottawa) or the cata- logues of a whole group of libraries at once. The REFCATTS database lets us know what is available in the collections of major Canadian libraries which use the UTLAS automated cataloguing sys- tem.

Locally, Concordia, McGill, Univer- sité de Montréal, Ecole Polytechnique, and Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commer- ciales all participate in this system. You can obviously save yourself a lot of time by asking if a publication is available elsewhere in Montréal, rather than trek- king all over the city and possibly never finding what you are looking for.

As with many computerized sys-

Good News For Diploma Students

Any student currently enrolled in a Graduate Diploma program may now obtain a CREPUQ card which entitles them to borrow material from other Québec and Ontario university libraries generally two-week loans for books. (CREPUQ is the acronym for Confer- ence des recteurs et principaux des universités du Québec, an association of Québec universities.)

The following are the programs which are included: Accountancy, Adult Education, Advanced Music Perform- ance Studies, Art Education, Art Ther-

_apy, Communication Studies, Commu- nity Politics and Law, Computer-Assisted Learning, Computer Science, Early Childhood Education, Ecotoxicology, Institutional Administra- tion, Instructional Technology, Journal- ism, Library Studies, Sports Administra- tion, Teaching Mathematics, Theological, Religious and Ethical Stud-

ies and Writing/Translation. Previously CREPUQ cards were only given to students pursuing Master’s or Doctoral degrees.

To arrange to obtain a CREPUQ card, telephone the Office of the Direc- tor of Libraries at 848-7694 (Room 704 in the Norris Building) or the secretary to

the Head, Vanier Library at 848-7771 (Room 206 in the Vanier Library). You must bring your Graduate Studies Regis- tration Form (contract) and preferably also your ID card with you when the card is issued. These are the documents need to confirm your status as a graduate student with the library.

The Gift of Music

-The record collection in the Non- Print area of the Vanier Library will be significantly enhanced by a recent dona- tion of 725 records from Kevin Austin, Assistant Professor, Music Department. The donated collection consists mainly of classical recordings including the complete works of Mozart (symphonies, chamber music, piano and organ works). A few of the many other composers are

Beethoven (including performances by Vladimir Horowitz), Handel, Mahler, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Wagner. In addition to the large classical collection, there is ethnic music from cultures around the world and some recordings of sound effects. With the addition of these recordings, the Vanier Library can offer the Concordia community access to well over 5,000 records.

tems, this type of system works best for titles published recently, i.e., in the last fifteen years.

However, since many libraries have input or are in the process of inputting machine-readable records for all their materials we are now finding that even older publications can be found in these databases.

Researching a topic is a very time- consuming undertaking.

Tracking down references in libraries outside Concordia can be extremely frustrating and inefficient. Why waste your time when you don’t have to? If you feel you might need this service ask about it at any Reference Desk. The Reference Librarian will tell you if it’s the right solution to your particular problem.

For material not available at Con- cordia (whether it is in Montreal or not), there is always the other option of requesting the item via the Interlibrary Loans Service (ILL). Check the Library Owner’s Manual on the pamphlet enti- tled “Interlibrary Loans Information for Borrowers” for details on this ser- vice. -

Keeping Informed

“Library News” is a four- times-a-year feature prepared for The Thursday Report by Concordia Librarians. “Library News’ gives you a chance to keep up to date

with the latest. developments in the Concordia Libraries. We hope that “Library News”? will attract com- ments, contributions, etc. If you have something to say, simply write to TTR, and if you have something to include in “Library News,”

please contact the editor, Lee

Harris, at 848-7724.

Page 4 THE THURSDAY REPORT March 16, 1989

Easter Hours 1989

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Library Staff Requirements!

The following appeared recently in Library Journal and takes a tongue-in- cheek look at what qualities one would seek when hiring library staff from student assistants to the head of the library.

The librarian should (1) be short to reach the bottom shelf easily; (2) have long arms to reach the top shelf; (3) be thin to fit in small spaces; (4) be strong to move library furniture, shift the collec- tion, and move full bookcarts; (5) have a memory which recalls all users’ names and where all items are in the library, especially those that are not in a normal place (at the bindery, in oversize shelv- ing, storage items, etc.).

And you thought it was easy to work in a library?

Where is Vanier Non-Print?

Until the renovation and final completion of the Vanier Library, Vanier Non-Print is temporarily located in the Drummond Science

Building, Room DL-200. We have added a CD player to the equip- ment in Vanier Non-Print and have started to develop a collection of compact discs for your listening pleasure.

10:00-18:00 CLOSED CLOSED

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Here are a few samples of the questions that people have asked at the Reference/Information Desks in Con- cordia libraries:

QUESTION: Do you have any books about scorpions?

ANSWER: Yes. There is a book entitled The Life of the Scorpion at the Vanier Library (call number QL 458 S4F3). This question was posed in the Science and Engineering Library but the book was at Loyola. Sometimes books are not found in the library which seems the most obvious location!

QUESTION: The book I need has \ been borrowed by someone else; I’d like to know who has it.

ANSWER: The identity of library users is always kept confidential. Materi- al that is borrowed by another user may be requested via normal procedures.


World University Service of Canada is a non-profit international organization which encourages the participation of members of Canadian educational institutions in economic and social develop- ment in both Canada and developing countries. Programmes include international seminars for students and _ professors;

With Thanks To:

Contributors: unin sponsorship of refugee students; on-campus sales of crafts from | Joy Bennett : cooperatives and artisans in developing countries. Vicki Lacroix Judy Appleby All members of the Concordia community are invited to a eee Sor Louise Carpentier | presentation on WUSC’s activities and on the possibilities for cee a eda Olea greater involvement by Concordia. Ruth Noble Lee Harris, Editor = Donna Reed Refreshments will be served. |

Matt Seebruch

March 16, 1989 THE THURSDAY REPORT Page 5




Case increase highest ever

his report covers the academic year 1987-88 and is submitted in compliance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct (non-academic) that the Ombudspersons “will issue yearly a public report indicating the nature and extent of their operation?’ The report consists of a review of selected cases and issues together with observations and comments on the caseload for the year under review. A section of recommendations appears at the end.

The number of cases we received last year was the highest ever, an increase of about 5% over the previous year. In the past decade, since the Ombuds Office began operating under a revised mandate and structure, the caseload has risen by two thirds from 429 in 1978-79 to 710 in 1987-88. Without a doubt, we are more efficient in our operations with 10 years’ experience. At the same time, like many other departments in the University, the Ombuds Office staff are stretched to their limits. And, while a certain level of streamlining is useful, ‘efficiency’ in the usual sense can easily detract from the office’s commitment to people and their problems, complaints and questions. The statistical information for the year 1987-88 is included in tabular form as an appendix. As in other years, we note that statistics are an inadequate tool to describe an ombudsperson’s work. Many cases do not lend themselves to precise classification and the tables should only be interpreted in the most general way.

Cases initiated by students And then the floodgates opened. . .

he academic year 1987-88 will be remembered in the Ombuds Office as The Year The Tuition Rebate Policy Changed. More than 50 students complained about the change more than we can remember seeing about any other single issue in as short a time. Undoubtedly, there were others affected who did not make their way to us. Most of the complaints came from students who claimed not to have known about the new policy and who had withdrawn from courses, expecting to get

some money back, only to discover that from September 1987 on no refunds were given after the course change period. The change in Concordia’s policy was made in order to clarify registration statistics to accommodate a new govern- ment funding policy. Unfortunately, the decision came during the summer, a time when it’s hard to communicate with students. The timing of the decision unavoidable according to the Vice Rector concerned accounts for many of the problems that followed. The new policy

was approved by the Board of Governors too late to be included in the Undergrad- uate Calendar; publicity was not as effective as it might have been; and ignorance of the change subsequently cost a lot of students a lot of money. On top of that, no clear procedure was devised to consider exceptions to the rule and students who thought they had a case to make found themselves undergo- ing a frustrating runaround that usually ended at a brick wall.


1. The cartoons which appear in this report are adapted with per- mission from those by Raeside which appeared in the reports by Dr. Karl Friedmann, former Ombudsman of the Province of British Columbia. We have enjoyed including these cartoons in our report and the fact that we have seen them on office walls in the University suggests that others have enjoyed them, too.

2. Initials used in this report are not the initials of the parties involved in the reported cases.

Page 6 THE THURSDAY REPORT March 16, 1989

Rebates, rebates, rebates

And more rebates

e Students who claimed that they had not received any information about the policy change were simply told they were wrong according to administrators every student who registered was given an explanatory flyer by mail for early registrants, by hand for those who registered in person.

e Students who sought refunds on the grounds that their decisions to withdraw had been guided by the old policy in the Calendar the Calendar they are normally expected to rely on were told that the Calendar also says fees may be changed.

© The Student Request Committees, the only bodies authorized to award retroac- tive DNEs (and hence retroactive refunds) took the position that they could not consider these cases; their mandates were to deal with academic matters and didn’t extend to financial policies. The Vice-Rector, on the other hand, argued that the Committees did have jurisdiction. With no resolution to this question the matter was left at a stalemate.

In the opinion of the Ombudsper- sons, the Student Request Committees were right. At the same time, when they closed the one door open to students who thought their cases merited exception, the students had nowhere to turn but to the Ombuds Office. For most of them,

this wasn’t very helpful. The Ombud-

spersons got the same back-and-forth,

arguments the students did. Nevertheless, some individual cases and some more general problems did get attention. © The Student Request Committees were willing to listen and award retroactive DNEs to students whose reasons for dropping courses late could be traced to a problem with the delivery of a course or to some other error or omission on the University’s part. e The Vice-Rector approved a refund for one early registrant when it became evident that he had not been sent the information flyer about the new policy. The case was unusual maybe unique insofar as the student had paid his fees in full when he registered in the spring. Subsequently, when the flyer was sent out to early registrants with their accounts statements, there had been no need to send a statement to this student as he owed no money. And so he hadn’t been sent a flyer either. e In May 1988, the Associate/Vice- Deans responsible for handling student

requests jointly recommended the_

appointment of a separate University- wide committee to handle requests for refunds of tuition fees for non-academic reasons. The Ombuds Office strongly supported that recommendation. As far

as we are aware, the Vice-Rector has not yet made a decision.

e Many people, administrators and stu- dents alike, were concerned about the effect this policy had on international students whose fees are so much higher than those of Canadians and permanent residents of Canada. The Ombudsper- son suggested to the Vice-Rector that a maximum dollar figure the amount of Canadian fees be assessed for any course withdrawal. (A dollar figure sys- tem is in effect for graduate students.) The Vice-Rector felt unable to consider any change in the policy at the time but indicated he might reopen the question. e Many students who forfeited their fees after discontinuing courses complained when they received a bill a couple of weeks later for a $10 course change fee. They remarked that this was like rubbing salt into an already nasty wound and that, in effect, it had cost them more to drop a course than to take one. The University agreed the students had made a good point. As of June 1, 1988 course change fees have not been charged to students who withdraw after the course change period.

Given the inevitable difficulties which arise out of policies devised over the summer, anyone would have cause to wonder whether some flexibility ought not to be built into their implementation

in the first year. We also wonder whether, in this instance, the time and effort spent on a hard-line approach was value for money. While the point was clearly made that refunds would not be given after course changes, the exercise was costly. The Ombudspersons, academic advi- sors, and administrative staff at all levels spent dozens of expensive hours with these cases; staff felt frustrated; students felt angry and cheated; no useful lesson was learned. Certainly, the students whose cases were not dealt with will never believe the University treated them fairly.

Paper chase

nstructors often leave marked term l papers, exams and assignments in

departmental offices for students to pick up at their convenience. Sometimes a department secretary has charge of the papers but in other cases students simply go through the piles for their classes to retrieve their own work. A_ student brought her concerns about this system to the Ombuds Office. Ms. L had gone to her department to pick up a term paper. She was directed to a storeroom where papers were kept for a number of courses and told to find her own. After looking through the proper pile without success, Ms. L wondered whether there might have been a mix-up and she looked through several other piles, still without success. In the end, she went to the department secretary to report her work missing and she learned that several other students had made similar com- plaints. Ms. L was upset about the incident for several reasons. One, obvi- ously, was that without the paper she couldn’t review her instructor’s com- ments; after many hours of research and writing, this was a real disappointment. But Ms. L also had more general con- cerns. She asked whether leaving papers and exams out in the open for other students to leaf through didn’t conflict with the University’s policy concerning the confidentiality of grades. She also wondered whether her paper (and the others that were missing) had been stolen and suggested that letting people go through the piles of papers without supervision left the way open to theft and to students plagiarizing from each other.

The Ombudsperson suggested that Ms. L write to the Chair of her depart- ment about her experience and, as a result, a more secure system has been instituted. However, because other departments. operate like Ms. LU’s used to do, and because not enough thought seems to have been given to the issues of security and confidentiality she raised, we considered the case important to report. We recommend that all depart- ments take the steps necessary to ensure that students’ work is not accessible to other students.

March 16, 1989 THE THURSDAY REPORT Page 7

Surprise, surprise!

ate in October, two graduate

; students came to the Ombuds { Office with a problem that need-

ed a quick solution. They had taken a ‘course the previous summer and, because the project required was com- plex, the whole class had been given an extension of several months to complete it. The complainants expected that, until their final grades were in, their records would show that the course was IP (In Progress). But just after the projects had been submitted, and while the students were in the midst of applying for grants


and scholarships with a fast-approach- ing deadline, they discovered that their grades were not IP they were Fail/ Absent! Worried that the failure would appear on transcripts sent to granting agencies, the students called their profes- sor, who promised to get the new grades in quickly. Still panicky, they asked around to find out whether any change could be made to the failures in the meantime. Could IPs replace the Fail/ Absents temporarily?

The students were told that no alternative was possible. F/Absent == ;

grades were final unless their instructor changed them and the Graduate Studies Office approved the change. This could not be done overnight. The students came to the Ombuds Office. Their chances for scholarships would be lost, they said, unless the grades were changed immediately. Would somebody please DOsomething....

The Ombudsperson’s enquiry turn- ed up the information that no grade sheet had been submitted for the course at the end of the Summer session and the Registrar’s Office had closed the ‘open’

grades with F/Absents. And why was there no grade sheet? Apparently, the instructor of the course hadn’t known that grade sheets had to be submitted, final or not, even grade sheets where every student had IP. The case ends happily. The instructor got the gradesin, ~ the complainants’ grades were changed to As, and the Registrar’s Office has undertaken to contact any instructor whose grade sheet is outstanding before open grades are closed with F/Absent.

What’s good for the goose...

he University’s system for defer- ring examinations when students are sick, suffer a death in the family or have some comparable reason for missing an exam is centralized in the Examinations Office. Medical certifi- cates and other documents are chan- nelled through that office and Examina- tions staff decide if they will be accepted, arranges for MED notations on students’ records, schedules replacement examina- tions, and so on. A centralized system encourages consistency and helps to protect the confidentiality of medical and personal information. It also helps to identify the odd student whose grand- mother suffers three fatal heart attacks in different semesters or the student who gets sick every examination period and might benefit from help with exam anxiety. On the whole, the system works well but it only works for final exams. When it comes to mid-term exams, class

tests, and other kinds of term work, there is no system at all. Decisions on exten- sions, deferrals and make-up tests are solely at the discretion of individual course instructors.

This has led to a number of com- plaints about inconsistent treatment. One instructor may accept a medical certificate and allow