Policy on Treatment of Graduate Students on Non-Academic and Non-Employment Issues (Under Revision)

Approved Executive Committee of the Board of Governors X2000.26



1. In its strategic plan approved in 1995, the University of Ottawa made the following commitment:

"We will provide a safe and inviting intellectual, cultural and social environment, in which our students, faculty and staff are motivated and challenged to perform at their highest potential. We will continue protecting individual rights and safeguarding the principles of equal opportunity and equitable treatment."

The University recognizes the many contributions of graduate students to this institution and is committed to offering them protection from abuse in all aspects of their relationship with the University. Not only are students learning for their own benefit, but many contribute to the research life of the University as a required part of their degree programs. Others may also function as employees (for example, teaching assistants, sessional lecturers, research assistants). As employees, their rights and privileges are specified by collective agreements. As students, any academic evaluation may be appealed through procedures specified by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (FGPS).

The purpose of this document is to address other aspects of the graduate student's experience at the University of Ottawa; in particular (but not limited to)

  • discrimination
  • harassment and intimidation
  • fair and equitable treatment
  • intellectual property
  • academic misconduct or fraud
  • health and safety


2. This policy covers all full-time and part-time graduate students registered at the University of Ottawa. No student will suffer academic consequences as a result of exercising his/her rights under this policy. This policy shall have effect 30 days after approval by the Board of Governors of the University of Ottawa.

3. The procedures for recourse in this policy may be used as well in any circumstance where any other policy of the University of Ottawa is applied or should be applied to a graduate student or graduate students other than situations involving:

  • the appeal of academic decisions related to grades or other requirements for entry into or completion of degree or diploma programs, or to student status. Such appeals are subject to the general regulations of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
  • any issue subject to a collective agreement between the University and one of its unions. In such cases, the relevant collective agreement shall apply.

The procedures for recourse in this policy are not intended to supersede Policy 67b on prevention of sexual violence or Policy 110a on soft-funded research bursaries.



4. No member of the academic community shall be subject to discrimination by reason of age, race, creed, colour, national or ethnic origin, citizenship, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation/choice, disability, age, marital, parental or family status, political, academic or religious beliefs or affiliations, or membership or non-membership in any student organization, or the exercise of rights under this policy.

There shall be no discrimination on the basis of language except where language competence is an academic requirement and is consistent with the University's policy and regulations on bilingualism.


5. No member of the academic community shall be subjected to harassment or intimidation.

  • a) Sexual Harassment: The University's Policy 67b on prevention of sexual violence shall apply to any complaints of sexual harassment and may be addressed to the University of Ottawa Sexual Harassment Officer.
  • b) Non-sexual harassment: Harassment involves engaging in a course of comment or conduct, whether deliberate or inadvertent, which denies individuals their dignity and/or respect, or is offensive, intimidating, embarrassing or humiliating, vexatious or vindictive, or adversely affects the environment for study, that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome. There are many types of harassing or intimidating behaviour, including, but not limited to: verbal or written intimidation/harassment (for example, shouting, swearing, belittling, demeaning comments or communications); physical intimidation/harassment (this includes any violent or threatening behaviour); reprisal or threat of reprisal.

Fair and Equitable Treatment

6. Graduate students have the right to be treated according to commonly accepted norms of fairness and ethical behaviour. In particular:

  • a) All academic evaluations will be performed fairly, impartially, and in a timely manner. Any appeal of an academic evaluation must be made in writing in accordance with the appeal procedures of the FGPS. No graduate student shall be subjected to educational imbalance (this may include inadequate supervision and/or excessive demands without educational merit).
  • b) The nature of the relationship between thesis director and student is unique, and will vary according to the individuals and discipline involved. The usual responsibilities and expectations of both parties are outlined in general terms in the FGPS document "Research and Thesis". Professors and students must always act in accordance with University policies.
  • c) Funding opportunities: It is understood that some programs have established guidelines setting minimum guaranteed funding levels and durations for graduate students. The University is committed to at least maintaining these levels and encourages graduate programs that do not currently have such guidelines to introduce them in accordance with University of Ottawa practices. It is expected that programs will make these policies known and accessible to students in writing, and will abide by them unless all parties agree to an exception in writing.
  • There are many sources of funding available to graduate students, including but not limited to: financial aid, scholarships, soft-funded research bursaries, employment as part-time professors, teaching assistants, research assistants, tutors, markers, proctors, laboratory monitors and demonstrators. The rights and privileges of students as employees are governed by the APTPUO collective agreement in the case of part-time professors, and by the collective agreement with CUPE 2626 in the case of teaching assistants, research assistants, markers, proctors, laboratory monitors and demonstrators. Moreover,
  • Financial aid is awarded based on financial need and is subject to provincial or federal regulations.
  • Scholarships awarded by the University and by external agencies recognize academic merit, and are awarded on a strictly competitive basis, subject to the availability of funds and the eligibility conditions as specified by the agency in question.
  • Professors may use their own research funds (soft funds) to offer "soft-funded scholarships"(SFS) to their students on a non-competitive basis. Such scholarships are subject to the FGPS Policy on Soft-Funded Scholarships.
  • Soft funds may be used to offer "soft-funded research bursaries" (SFRB), which are defined in and subject to Policy 110a.
  • Research assistantships, both from hard (HFRA) and soft funds (SFRA), are regarded as employment and are subject to the collective agreement with CUPE 2626, as indicated above.
  • When a thesis director offers an SFS, SFRA or SFRB to his/her student, it is assumed that the professor will make reasonable efforts to secure adequate soft funds to continue to support the student in accordance with the funding policy of the academic unit, provided satisfactory progress is maintained. It is understood that a professor will not discontinue the soft-funded support of a student making satisfactory progress during the normal duration of the program (as determined by the policy of the academic unit) in order to offer funding to a new student.
  • d) Holidays and absences: Students are not normally required to perform academic activities on any of the following holidays: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and any other statutory holiday or other holiday declared by the University's Board of Governors.

Students are entitled to observe holidays associated with their religion, and shall not normally be required to perform academic activities between December 23 and the first day of classes in January. Likewise, in addition to official holidays and the Christmas shutdown, a student may expect to have a period of three weeks, two of which must be consecutive, without imposed academic activities, provided that it does not impinge on course requirements.

Requests for short term absences for just cause will not unreasonably be denied. However, any absence in excess of four weeks must be approved by the FGPS.

Notwithstanding the above, it is understood that it is the student's responsibility to ensure that he or she meets all academic deadlines, and to carry out his or her research in a timely manner. In exceptional circumstances this may entail foregoing normal holidays or absences.

Intellectual Property

7. Students have the right to receive appropriate recognition for and to benefit from their research endeavours. University policy on intellectual property rights is defined by Policy29 on Patents and in the collective agreements with the APUO, the APTPUO, and CUPE 2626. The University's guidelines on authorship are stated in Articles 3.2.2 and 3.2.3 of the FGPS publication "Research Ethics".

Academic or scientific misconduct or fraud

8. The University will not tolerate any form of academic or scientific misconduct or fraud on the part of any member of the academic community. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • plagiarism or cheating
  • false claims of authorship or ownership of intellectual property
  • falsification or concoction of research data; lack of honesty in the collection or interpretation of data
  • attribution of a purported statement or reference to a source which has been concocted
  • falsification or misrepresentation of a document, or use of a falsified document
  • colluding with colleagues in committing academic or scientific misconduct or fraud

Academic fraud and scientific misconduct are dealt with pursuant to the Senate Policy on Academic Fraud and the applicable collective agreements.

Health and Safety

9. The University is responsible for providing all of its students with a safe and healthy working environment. While students are not subject to the provincial legislation on occupational health and safety, the University abides by those principles as shown in Policies 77 and 91.

Students are covered by the general liability insurance held by the University.

Notwithstanding the fact that Health and Safety Committees are established under legislation for workers, any student who is concerned about his/her health and safety in performing an assignment or activity required by his/her academic program may bring this to the attention of the University's sectoral occupational health and safety committee. If the student considers such an assignment or activity to be unsafe, he/she may suspend its performance and request that a member of the University's sectoral occupational health and safety committee investigate and determine whether it is safe. If the assignment or activity is found to be safe, the student must perform it.

Any student who becomes pregnant may request precautionary measures, including a modification of her academic program, to protect herself and her fetus. Should she request any such measures, she shall report her pregnancy to her thesis director, the Occupational Health and Safety Nurse, and the University's Radiation Safety Inspector, where appropriate, and a modified program will be implemented for the duration of the pregnancy, with no academic prejudice or loss of scholarship, bursary or salary during the period of the modified program. Women of childbearing age should ensure that they seek all relevant information concerning exposure to hazardous materials, including those which are biohazardous in nature, from the appropriate MSDS information and/or the Radiation Safety Inspector.

In cases where a student is exposed to an infectious agent either by working directly with an infectious organism or by working with human or animal tissues or fluids, the cost of any required vaccination not covered by a provincial or municipal health plan will be paid from the thesis director's research grant, unless the vaccination is required as a prerequisite of admission to a program of study. The University agrees that it will not amend the current prerequisites of admission relating to vaccinations without consulting the GSAED unless the change is imposed by an external agency legally entitled to require compliance.


10. There shall be a Policy 110 Joint Consultative Committee which shall draft and amend from time to time any regulations or procedures required for this policy to have effect. Recommendations from the Policy 110 Joint Consultative Committee for such regulations or procedures shall go directly to the Administrative Committee.

The Committee will also draw up the list of internal arbitrators for internal recourse. The Policy 110 Joint Consultative Committee shall be composed of two graduate students named by the GSAED, and the Dean and the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies or their delegates.

The Policy 110 Joint Consultative Committee shall meet as necessary. Meetings may be called by either party on written notice of five working days or by mutual consent. Quorum shall consist of all four members and minutes of meetings shall be taken.


11. As noted above, any graduate student or group of graduate students shall have access to this procedure for recourse in order to compel the fair application of any existing University policy pertaining to graduate students, with the exception of any employment issue subject to a collective agreement, or any policy, regulation or procedure used to undertake the appeal of academic decisions related to grades or requirements for entry into or completion of degree programs. A graduate student may be assisted or represented at any step of this recourse process by a person of his/her choice, as a matter of right.

Where a student is alleging harassment or discrimination by a professor, he/she may bypass steps 1, 2 and 3 below and file a written complaint directly with the professor's dean. Where the resulting action by the dean is deemed unacceptable by the student, he/she may proceed directly to step 4 below.

Step 1

A graduate student who feels that a University policy has not been appropriately or fairly applied should first attempt to resolve the matter informally with the person whom the student believes has failed to properly apply that policy.

Step 2

If the matter is not resolved at Step 1, the student should follow the conflict resolution procedure of the faculty, if one exists. All faculties are strongly encouraged to develop such procedures. Otherwise, the student may seek recourse in writing within five working days from the chairperson of the student's department, or, where no department exists, from the dean of the faculty. The student may skip Step 2 if the student believes that circumstances warrant doing so, and may proceed directly to Step 3.

Step 3

If the matter is not resolved at Step 2, or if the student has elected to skip Step 2, the matter may be submitted in writing within five working days to the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies or his/her delegate, who shall have a further ten working days to attempt to resolve the matter.

Where after consultation with the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies the Vice-Dean is of the opinion that the complaint may involve a breach of ethics under article 10 (Professional Ethics) of the APUO collective agreement or 2.6 (Ethical Behaviour) of the APTPUO collective agreement, the complaint or such part of the complaint bearing on the possible breach of ethics shall be transmitted to the dean of the faculty of the professor concerned to be dealt with under 39.2 (Discipline for violation of article 10) of the APUO collective agreement or under article 6 (Discipline and Discharge) of the APTPUO collective agreement, as appropriate ; only that part (if any) of the complaint that does not deal with a question of ethics can proceed to step 4 of this policy. The dean of the faculty will inform the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies once the appropriate steps have been completed, according to the relevant collective agreement.

Step 4

If the matter is not resolved at Step 3, the student may refer the matter to an internal arbitration by notifying the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies within a further five working days.

The matter shall be heard by an internal arbitrator chosen either by mutual consent or by lot from the list drawn by the Policy 110 Joint Consultative Committee. No internal arbitrator shall serve in respect of a dispute involving a student or an employee from the internal arbitrator's own department, or, if dealing with a faculty which does not have departments, from the internal arbitrator's faculty. The University of Ottawa agrees to be bound by the decision of the internal arbitrator, and the student's use of the internal arbitration process is deemed to represent acceptance by the student of the binding nature of the internal arbitration process.

The use by the student of the provisions of this section shall not be taken into consideration in any matter relating to grades in graduate courses or in eligibility for admission to other graduate programmes.

Revised March 14, 2000

(Teaching and Learning Support Service)