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New U of G program offers academic accommodations to students in military

The Serving Scholars program aims to make it easier for student reservists to balance school and work
Fifth-year student at the U of G, Alex Fekri has been in the reserves for four years. Supplied photo

The University of Guelph is implementing a new policy to allow academic accommodations for students serving in the Canadian Forces.

The Serving Scholars program is the first of its kind in Ontario that aims to remove any stress students face while they juggle their education and military duties. 

It will allow student reservists to defer, prepone exams or renegotiate due dates for assignments and exams along with an option to register for courses early if they are busy during the summer with military duties or are busy with training on the weekend.

“It frees these exceptional young people to focus on their duty and to pursue their studies vigorously when they’re students,” said classics professor John Walsh who designed the program.

Walsh said over the last couple of years, he met several student reservists and was deeply moved when he heard about their struggles first hand. After visiting a training centre in Meaford three years ago, he was also able to see live-fire exercises and witness circumstances student reservists are in on a regular basis. 

“It was only then by seeing it that I understood that their commitment to the military is almost unlike any other job. It’s full and complete and total and takes 24 hours a day of their commitment,” said Walsh. 

“It puts them in extreme drastic stress and makes it impossible for them to really have any contact with the outside world.”

He said ‘serving scholars’ adds to the fabric of the school the same way varsity athletes do. 

"Like athletes, they represent our school and even our country and by doing so, they contribute so much to Guelph," said Walsh adding that they deserve the same accommodations. 

Walsh said he is willing to extend the program to any university that wants to implement it. 

“There’s not a lot of cost, there’s not a lot of burdens but its impact on the individuals is profound,” said Walsh. 

Fifth-year student at the U of G, Alex Fekri — who has been in the reserves for four years — said in a press release that it can often be difficult for reservists to meet deadlines because they often work on the weekend. 

“Other times, we are called to emergency operations far from home with little notice, such as during the recent spring flooding in the Ottawa area. This new program will mean being able to have a bit of flexibility with deadlines or exam dates,” said Fekri. 

The university also worked with reserve students and local army regiment, the 11th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery, to develop plans that make the balancing of military and academic duties easier.


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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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