How does this story begin?
Everyone in my year/program got an email from the head of my program that included a list of new courses we could take to fulfill a program requirement. The email referenced who to contact in case we had questions. I saw one that I was interested in and jumped at the chance to register. At the time there were 18 seats available, however I couldn’t get in the class.
When I tried to register, the website said the course was restricted to a specific major that was not my own. Even though the course was in the list that the head of my program sent out. So, I contacted the faculty member from Liberal Arts and Sciences as it was indicated I should do in the email.
What did you get in response?
I was told that the course was in the Faculty of Art, so there was nothing that they could do about my problem. They also said the course I tried to register for was listed as a recommended studio elective, which references an old program guide that had not been updated; the email listed it as a course that could fulfill a requirement.
What did you do then?
I emailed the head of my program with questions about what was going on, and I was told that it was a mistake and that it would be fixed. I corresponded with him a couple times about the issue, but after a week the problem still hadn’t been resolved. A day later I got an email from Liberal Arts and Sciences saying that they were working on letting my program take the course in the winter of 2019. The email also said that there was a lengthy wait list for fall 2018 and I could plan the course into my schedule for winter 2019. That didn’t fit with my rigid schedule, so I responded asking to be put on the wait list for the fall 2018 section. It wasn’t clear why the original email offered me the option to register for the course if my program didn’t actually have permission to take it.
I’m guessing you ended up on a lengthy wait list.
Yes. I was around #20 on the wait list by the last week of summer break, and by August 29th all wait lists were dropped and the course was full. So I waited patiently, checking every hour to see if a spot would open up.
So, what were the first steps you took to try and remedy this?
I emailed a faculty member from the Faculty of Art explaining the situation and that there was an error, and asking if there was any way I could be granted permission to take the class. I got no response.
Did you try reaching out to someone else?
One day before classes were set to start I emailed the faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences asking again what had happened. I was frustrated because I was told I could take a course to fulfill my degree requirements and was denied the ability to take it. I also explained that when I tried to register there were 18 seats left. And now I was stuck on the waitlist. I had reached out to several faculty members to no avail and asked if there was any way I would be able to take the course. I also tried calling multiple members of the Faculty of Art, leaving messages on their voicemail, and never heard back.
Were you ever able to get anyone on the phone?
I eventually did, and the day before school started I was transferred to someone in the Faculty of Art and explained my situation. They then said that they had no idea that students in my program were being offered this course this year, and if they had known they would have included my program in the restriction and they would have offered another section of the course to accommodate the demands. They then offered to speak with the Dean or Associate Dean (I don’t remember who exactly) to see if I could be granted permission to take the class. They said it was unlikely but they would try. In the meantime, they suggested I contact the professor for the class to ask permission to take the class, which I did. At last, I had some sort of idea of what had gone wrong.
What happened when you contacted the professor?
This is where it gets crazy. On the same day, the day before classes, I contacted the professor for the class and they recommended I take the class another semester because the class had a limit to the number of students who could take it. Half an hour later I got an email from the faculty member from Liberal Arts and Sciences saying that there was never any mistake on their end. This conflicted with what the head of the program had said, that there had been an error and it would be resolved.
They also mentioned that when I requested to register, it was full with a wait list. They said they had suggested I take it in the winter, and now I should just choose another elective. However, this must have been a misunderstanding because when I requested to register there were 18 seats available. No wait list.
So, you couldn’t get into the course?
Actually, one hour later, I got an email from the faculty member I had talked to that morning saying I was granted permission to take the course.
So two “no” and a “yes” from the faculty?
Within an hour, I’d gotten 3 emails from OCAD faculty… riddled with contradictions. It was the day before the start of the semester, and my first class was, or would have been, the class in question. I had a choice: reach out again, try to get a clear answer, a consistent answer, about whether or not I was allowed to take that class… or I could just show up. So, yea, I was frustrated and confused.
Did you end up taking the class?
I took the class and loved it, but I want to make it clear that this is not a success story. Yes, I got what I wanted and fought for, but it wasn’t a triumph. It’s disheartening to realize how helpless we are as students when the institution that’s meant to educate us can’t get their facts straight.
What would you say to another student caught up in a similar situation?
Don’t give in just because the system isn’t clear or easy. Fight for what you want, this is your education. Push back against contradicting messages from faculty, ask for clarification even if you’re coming across as annoying. To this day I don’t know whether or not I was allowed to take the course. Was I misinformed? Was the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences misinformed? Or the Faculty of Art? All I know for sure is that without this battle, I wouldn’t have been able to take the course. And maybe the irritation of having to deal with me will encourage the faculties to communicate with one another before sharing information with students. What I learned from this experience was: OCAD faculties do not effectively communicate. Whether it be with students or with other faculties, an altogether absence of response or contradictory information, communication is the issue.
Due to privacy concerns, we are keeping all participants anonymous. Thank you for your understanding.