For the first time in 19 years, UBC’s policy on academic accommodations for students with disabilities (Policy 73) is undergoing revisions.
At its December 6 general meeting, the UBC Board of Governors (BoG) approved amendments to Policy 73 that update procedures on how and when students with disabilities can receive academic accommodations.
Since Policy 73 is now a joint policy between the Board and the Senate, the Vancouver and Okanagan Senates will still have to approve the policy before it takes effect.
AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Max Holmes says the most significant change is the modernization of the policy.
“Ultimately, the entire policy has resulted in a student disability policy that is modernized and more transparent for students and faculty,” said Holmes. “If you look at it, if there are ever disagreements on accommodations, there is now a clear policy that people follow.”
One important change is that administrative centres can now determine non-academic accommodations for students as well as academic ones — a motion strongly supported by the AMS during the consultation period.
“The policy has been clarified to not just be academic accommodations but is also any accommodations, understanding that the scope of accommodations is not just inside within the classroom but also outside [of it],” said Holmes.
At the meeting, University Council Hubert Lai said the team received a “significant amount of feedback” that resulted in “in a number of changes” for the policy.
For years, many voiced concerns that the policy was seriously outdated and that it lacked procedural guidelines on how accommodation should be sought.
The updated policy includes a procedures section which outlines the way reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities should be implemented in both campuses. The section also distinguishes between disabilities and temporary health issues, clarifying that resources centres named in the policy are only responsible for the former.
“It does make sense that temporary health conditions are not included within this policy but now the Senate needs to make sure that the academic concessions policy, the new one that’s being written right now, includes temporary health conditions,” Holmes added.
The new policy also sets the steps for what to do if a professor fails or refuses to provide accommodations mandated by the centre.
Now, the procedures manual clarifies that if a resource centre determines that an essential requirement is not being met, the instructor has “a duty to make such accommodations, subject to undue hardship.” If no agreement is reached between the instructor and the centre, then the registrar will be the final arbitrator in approving concessions.
The policy remains firm in that the “provision of accommodation shall not lower the academic standards of UBC.”
“[The review] has really struck the important balance between making sure that we are following our legal duty and obligation to accommodate but also making sure that we are respecting the academic freedom and integrity of all the different academic units on campus,” said Holmes.
While the policy’s content is generally supported, there are some concerns about how it will be executed. UBC Vancouver (UBCV) Board Faculty Representative Dr. Charles Menzies voiced concerns during a committee meeting about proper communication with professors on providing accommodations, saying that faculty should be “frontline allies” of the access office, but are forced to field demands from both students and administration.
At the general meeting, Menzies voted against the motion to approve amendments to Policy 73, saying it’s unclear how the policy would change following Senate discussion.
Fellow UBCV Board Faculty Representative Dr. Nassif Ghoussoub — chair of the Learning & Research committee, which handles this policy review — urged the Board to vote to show their position on the issue. The motion was carried.
“We do really urge both Senates to pass it in its current form just like the Board of Governors did,” said Holmes.