Advocacy FAQ

If you cannot find the answer to your question here, require more information, or would like to discuss your situation in person, please contact the Advocate at or (778) 782 9412. Both the email and voicemail are confidential.

Common Questions

My supervisor/supervisory committee is bad/lazy/rude/etc. How can I fix it?

There are very limited formal mechanisms at SFU for resolving issues with your supervisor so there is no one perfect way. It is best to start by speaking directly with your supervisor about your concerns (see our Tips for Difficult Conversations). If this does not resolve the issue, then speak with the head of your department/faculty about your concerns. Finally, if this doesn’t help, then speak with Dr. George Agnes, Associate Dean – Students in the Graduate Studies Office. If Dr. Agnes is unable to assist you, you may want to consider changing your supervisor/supervisory committee.

How can I change my supervisor/supervisory committee?

The process for changing a supervisor or your supervisory committee is described in the Graduate General Regulations 1.6.6. Changes to your supervisor or supervisory committee can be very disruptive and will only be accepted “on the basis of strong reasons.” A student, or any member of the supervisory committee including the supervisor, can request to change the committee. There is a form to make the change, which must be submitted with reasons for the change to the Graduate Program Committee (GPC) for consideration. You may request to speak at the GPC when the change is considered. If the GPC approves the request, it is then sent to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval.

How will dropping this class/changing supervisors/taking a leave/etc. affect my ability to graduate?

It is best to speak with your supervisor, Chair/Director, and/or the Graduate Studies Office about how changes to your program or status will affect your path to graduation.

I was assessed an unsatisfactory progress and I don’t agree with it.

Information about unsatisfactory progress reports is outlined in the Graduate General Regulations 1.8.2. Unsatisfactory progress reports may only be issued after the Graduate Program Committee (GPC) has reviewed the information and given the student an opportunity to present his/her side of the story. The student may then be required to withdraw or be required to improve in specific ways. The student must receive this information in writing and may appeal the decision to the Senate Graduate Studies Committee (SGSC).  The student has a right to appear before SGSC when the case is considered. Please see our Understanding Evaluations and Appeals guide for more information.

I failed my comprehensive exams.

Each program will have different policies about the number of times students may attempt their comprehensive exams. You may be permitted to attempt the exam a second time, but students are rarely granted a third attempt. Speak with your Chair/Director about these guidelines. If the department/faculty is not able to offer any solution and you have been told you must withdraw, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Senate Appeals Board (SAB). You must provide evidence there are extenuating circumstances or there was a serious breach of procedure, which negatively affected your studies. The form for the SAB can be found here.

I was accused of cheating/plagiarism, but I’m innocent and/or the penalty is too severe.

Every student has a right to appeal the accusation of cheating/plagiarism and/or its related punishment. For more information on this process, please see our Understanding Academic Misconduct and Its Appeals guide.

I have been accused of fighting/theft/fraud/etc., but I’m innocent and/or the penalty is too severe.

Every student has a right to appeal the accusation of non-academic misconduct and/or its related punishment. For more information on this process, please see our Understanding Non-Academic Misconduct and Its Appeals guide.

Can the GSS Advocate be my support person?

Yes, the Advocate can attend UBSD and SCODA appeals, as well as other hearings such as a Graduate Program Committee meeting, Senate Appeals Board, Senate Graduate Studies Committee meeting, etc. It can be difficult to accommodate last minute requests, so please ensure that requests for a support person are made well in advance. As well, in some circumstances, you may be required to indicate you are bringing a support person when submitting your appeal request or your request may have to be approved by the hearing’s Chair. Please speak to the Advocate directly if you would like her to be your support person. The Advocate will not be able to speak on your behalf except in exceptional circumstances.

I’m a research assistant and I’m having an issue with my work.

Unfortunately, the University takes no responsibility for RAs as per policy R50.02 – Employment of Personnel Funded from Research, section 4.3 to 4.5. Therefore, technically speaking, any issue arising between an RA and their grant holder (research supervisor) must be dealt with as if it were a work-related issue outside of the University. This means the RA must first attempt to use informal means, but if that fails, the concern can be brought to an Employment Standards Branch, WorkSafeBC, or the RA may hire a lawyer. There are no formal mechanisms within the University for resolving RA issues. Exceptions to this are issues relating to harassment/discrimination; RAs are entitled to assistance from SFU’s Human Rights Office.

The GSS does not, however, support this interpretation of University policy and is interested in helping RAs resolve their issues informally and through University mechanisms.  Please contact the GSS Advocate if you are an RA and need help resolving an issue with your work.

I’m a TA/TM/Sessional Instructor and I’m having an issue with my job.

Any issues with your work as a TA/TM/Sessional Instructor should be forwarded to the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) for assistance.