By Tommy Kaufman
Edited by Alfonso Fernandez
For the students who don’t know about your role and its importance, what do you do specifically within Congress? I mean, every Congress member plays an active role in student life, but I think it’s important for students to know what you do specifically.
Yeah, that’s fair. There are a lot of positions [In Congress] which are well advertised, but the Coordinator of Advocacy isn’t. For example, if you need to work with money, you know that you need to go to the VP of finance, but hardly anyone knows what the Coordinator of Advocacy does.
What does the Coordinator of Advocacy do?
If there is an instance where you feel like a final grade given to you was unfair, and can’t work that out with your teacher properly, but you still want to pursue a grade change, I’m the guy to talk to because I know a lot about the process and I am integrated heavily within that process.
Academics are pretty important within Marianopolis, and I feel like my position is a byproduct of that culture, but also in more nefarious cases where you think that a student or teacher has been harassing you, I’m the person to go to.
How does that work?
I can help you create a system that prevents that harassment from occurring, or if you want administration to rectify the harassment issue. So pretty much, if you find yourself in a situation in which you feel like you’ve been wronged at Marianopolis, or feel like you have been personally unsafe at Marianopolis, that’s something I can help out with.
You also said that you are involved within the actual appeal process. How does that work within your role?
It means that as a person, my usefulness on that part of the process is that I’ve read the IPESA front to back, which most students don’t do… But I’m also on the academic council, which means that I’m part of the group of people who talk about how certifications happen, if the IPESA should change, and how it can reflect groups of students for x, y, z. So I’m part of the formative committee in charge of submitting changes to the IPESA.
Yeah. I’m also part of the anti-harassment committee, along with two other students. If you have a psychological harassment complaint, I can be one of your confidantes for that process.
What are confidantes?
Basically, they are people who can support and advise you during the process of a psychological harassment complaint. I can be an official member of your ‘staff’ when you’re doing that sort of complaint. Also not explicitly, but by virtue of my position, I’m in a better position to talk to members of administration, moderate issues with teachers… It comes easier to someone in my role compared to a student whose powers are more limited. I can help bridge the gap of power asymmetry between a student and the administrative powers that be.
So essentially, there’s a lot more transparency with administration when you get involved?
Pretty much. When you feel like you have been mistreated by administration, that’s when I can sort of come in and offer a second opinion as to what went wrong, and also talk to some of the actors that are involved in the complaint to put more personal pressure on those situations. Sometimes I’m limited in my role, but most of the time I can have an impact.
Without getting into too much detail…
Have you been involved in those appeals before?
The answer is yes, but I can’t disclose any details of those situations.
Well, that’s understandable… But it’s good to know that your role has actually been useful for students within the school before.
You’re starting to ask the tougher questions…
That leads me to another question. You were talking about being involved within the anti-harassment committee, and basically being able to change the IPESA.
Do you actually have any plans to change anything that you really don’t like in the appeal process or the way some complaints are handled within the school? Are there parts of the IPESA that you want to change?
Changing the IPESA is a whole different ballgame, because student representatives are only a small portion of those committees. There’s disproportionality between student representatives and teachers, so we can’t do anything outright for the students without getting approval from teachers.
As far as changes I want to make within the IPESA, I think that the transparency of those processes are complete garbage. I’m saying this not just for IPESA matters, but for psychological and academic appeals. If you haven’t contacted me before submitting a complaint anywhere within the school, the deck is already stacked against you in terms of the amount of information at your disposal in order to appropriately deliver your complaint.
So this isn’t really a change in the policies, rules and regulations, but more of a change in how those rules and regulations are advertised and applied. They are really important, and the fact that people don’t know that the rules exist… is a problem. I think that’s going to be more of a Congress initiative than that of the committees within the school.
I believe that Congress has more power to mobilize and engage crowds than the other two administrative committees have. Then there’s just the willingness to change. Some administrators want our experience as students to be the best it can be, and others… are motivated to protect their own interests. I really think Congress will have to spearhead all new initiatives when it comes to policy changes within Marianopolis.
Finally, what’s the difference between Grade Appeals and Psychological Harassment Appeals? I was surprised to hear that they were two different things.
Grade appeals or academic appeals in general are, as you can probably tell, something like just wanting a new grade or a regrade on a final, where you want your mark to go from mark A to mark B because of something that happened in the middle.
A psychological harassment complaint is where an individual feels like they have been personally slandered, or that the college has not been a welcoming environment due to actions from students, teachers, or malpractice within the administration. Pretty much anything that makes you as an individual feel personally at harm or at risk would fall under the purview of psychological harassment and that appeal process.
So you’re saying that if there is a psychological harassment problem within a class, and you need to appeal your grade…Your grade might be judged, and that will be its own separate thing? The psychological harassment claim won’t even be taken into account?
So here’s where things get blurry. If you think that your problem is purely academic, you know where to go. If your problem is purely psychological, you know where to go. But if you think that your grades suffered because of harassment that you endured, that muddies the waters–because it becomes a chicken and egg problem. In that case, I would suggest doing both, just to cover all of your bases. Both go through the due process, and whether the complaint is deemed valid… is entirely the faculty’s call. Usually the Associate Academic Dean, or the Coordinator of Human Resources will handle those types of complaints.
In those cases, it’s really handled on a case by case basis, because often there’s a lot of nuance. If you essentially give your complaint to the wrong person, and they say ‘sorry, wrong person’ you’re back to the drawing board. You lose a lot of time that way, so it’s always best to handle both complaints at the same time. So if you go to someone in administration and hand in your complaint and they say ‘sorry, wrong person, you’re shit out of luck’ and you’ve done your due diligence and you know that it belongs on their desk, you can tell them ‘yeah, this is your department, I’ve used every single outlet, this falls under your job’s purview.’ That’s my personal recommendation.
It looks like the bottom line is: if you have an issue with administration or a complaint within the school, come to Michael di Giorgio.
E/N: Contact Michael through Mio, Facebook, or simply by dropping by the Congress Office 🙂