Teachers lack empathy, says ombudsperson’s report

By Krista Hessey and Natalia Balcerzak

YouTube / TheRyersonian – via Iframely

The annual ombudsperson’s report revealed a “surprising” number of students complaining about a lack of empathy from instructors.

The report was presented to Ryerson’s senate on Jan. 26 and detailed some of the most common complaints the office received from students in the 2014/2015 school year.

In some cases where students sought accommodation from the university due to personal circumstances, such as a death in the family or an illness, the blunt responses from their professors led them to file a complaint with the ombudsperson’s office.

Paul Moore, associate professor in the department of sociology,said that the formality of the process can put up a barrier from faculty needing to be empathic and that students should be proactive to talk one on one versus waiting on an electronic response.

“(They need to) articulate what their needs are,” he said. “Too many students are unfortunately not in a position to help themselves in the moment of need, which only complicates things in the long run.”

Moore said that academic requests don’t trouble him and that he does his best to understand, but it is difficult to tread between helping and counselling.

“I think a lack of empathy is one thing, but I wonder if those complaints derive from students not understanding how they’re supposed to seek help and that there’s a more appropriate person to seek and get empathy from,” said Moore.

Jenny Jung, a fourth-year business technology management student, says that professors should also consider other factors, as many students do struggle living on their own.

“I go to school full time and I work part time —  (students) number one goal is to graduate and I think they should give students chances.”

The report also expresses the unwillingness of faculty to provide a rationale for the denial of a request. It is noted that it takes a considerate amount of time and money for students to collect the required documents and that they should receive more feedback than just a “no” or “denied”.

Unexplained delayed responses are also included in the report, as students’ academics can be negatively affected, such as determining whether they will continue their program or if they have the fulfilled the prerequisites to enroll in another course.

Nora Farrell, the ombudsperson, said that the report is designed to bring the university’s attention to the issues. Along with the concerns and suggestions, the report also includes responses from the university on how they plan to proceed with the matters.

“(I understand) there’s a function of priorities and resources … if the university it continuing to work on those points and there’s a good rationale for it, it’s not something I would see as being wrong as it’s a big place and there’s a lot of things going on,” said Farrell. “When they make an intention to accept a recommendation and they give a time frame, it sounds reasonable to me.”

The university has responded that the policy does allow for “exceptions under extraordinary circumstances” and that they will strive “to ensure that decision letters denying the granting of such exceptions provide a suitable explanation.”

Faculty will be required to respond in a timely manner for issues to be resolved quicker. They will also review course outlines on an annual basis to ensure the content is consistent with the policies and find additional venues to communicate this information.  

This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Feb. 3, 2016.

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