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U of C requires doctor’s notes for deferred examinations again amid shortage of doctors from Wellness Services 

By Nazeefa Ahmed and Gabriela Dziegielewska, September 8 2023—

Starting this fall semester, the University of Calgary will be requiring students to provide supporting documentation for missing course components. Penny Werthner, the interim academic provost and vice-president summarizes the new changes to students in an email update to the student body on September 5. 

“We know that unexpected events can and do happen, and these situations can disrupt your studies. While the university is here to support you during these difficult times, you may now be asked to provide supporting documentation if you miss a course component, request an exemption, or have a special request,” read the statement. 

The regulation, named calendar regulation M1, was removed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The email provides examples of types of documentation a student can submit.

“Examples of supporting documentation could include medical certificates or documentation, references, police reports, a compassionate/bereavement document, invitation letters and statutory declarations.”

Statutory declarations involve swearing an oath with a commissioner of oath for a fee, but this is one of many types of documentation a student can choose to provide. Students are reminded not to falsify their documentation as there can be direct consequences to their academic record.

“Falsification of any supporting documentation will be taken very seriously and may result in disciplinary action through the Academic Discipline regulations or the Student Non-Academic Misconduct policy,” reads a statement from the policy website

Additionally, providing documentation does not guarantee that a student can be excused from a course component. Decisions are made at the discretion of relevant parties, such as an instructor, course coordinator or faculty head. 

Students will once again be required to present medical and deferral notes in the case of illness, which can cost them $35 at the University of Calgary’s Student Wellness Services.

Aside from students being faced with new costs, the new policy comes into effect during an ever-dwindling physician retention at the Student Wellness Services. In a recent update on their website, the clinic announced that it lost three of its eight physicians, with one more leaving on November 30. 

This is not a new problem for the Wellness Centre. Since 2020, the clinic has seen 15 doctors on its staff decrease to just four, which is exacerbated by increased student enrolment. 

Coupled with these recent staffing changes, it is currently unclear what effect the new policy will have on average student wait times and the availability of newly announced walk-in appointments.

The Students’ Union (SU) has been advocating on the documentation issue throughout the summer. In a statement to the Gauntlet, SU’s Vice President Academic Sandra Amin speaks against the reinstated policy, as she believes the terms will have negative effects on student wellness. 

“The recent policy change is not a good decision because while we are striving to improve the student wellness culture, this change specifically works against this and reverts us back to an earlier, more challenging state for students,” read the statement. 

“The SU has been advocating on this specific issue throughout the summer and we are still slated to further develop this policy during this academic year, so to unpause it now and revert back to a pre-COVID state feels like a Band-Aid solution at best,” the statement continued. 

Amin states that the U of C plans to review the regulation once more and that the SU will advocate for changing the policy in the favour of students. 

“The university has committed to completing a full review of this regulation to prioritize student well-being, so we hope that we are able to resolve this issue as soon as possible to limit the amount of students who will be impacted by this,” she said. 

In a statement to the Gauntlet, the SU notes how students can voice their opinions to the university regarding the reinstatement of the policy.

‘If any students are affected — whether positively or negatively but especially negatively — the best course of action is to contact Dr. Penny Werthner at provost@ucalgary.ca,” read the statement.

More information about how the policy impacts students, including the types of supported documentation students can submit, can be found on the U of C website.

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