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New triage system for special consideration as Uni continues not-yet public review

Siobhan Ryan and Naaman Zhou report.

Special Consideration Inhumanity. Art: Melanie Booth, B. Visual Arts II (Print Media) Special Consideration Inhumanity. Art: Melanie Booth, B. Visual Arts II (Print Media)

A joint submission from SRC and SUPRA caseworkers to university management has called for a raft of major reforms to the special consideration system.

This comes during a University review into the special considerations system introduced in semester one, which was branded “inhumane” for rejecting students suffering cancer and bereavement.

The findings of the review are yet to be released, however Honi can report that the university has introduced a triage system that categorises more complex cases based on their sensitivity and urgency.

In a submission describing the current system as having “tarnished the University’s reputation as a fair institution”, caseworkers called on the University to grant special consideration for long-term conditions like pregnancy and cancer.

They also recommended that the University accept evidence of bereavement other than death certificates, and that international and Indigenous students be allowed to provide statutory declarations as evidence.

Following earlier complaints that the system was too impersonal and lacked a human point of contact, another recommendation calls for a contact desk for special consideration.

This would bring USyd’s system into line with other universities, such as UNSW which allows students to consult course coordinators and even bypass the online application system if necessary.

They also recommended that external psychiatrists be called in to aid with the review and that Counselling and Psychological Services be included in all future student referrals.

SRC caseworkers told Honi, “We’d like to see greater cultural sensitivity, for example around difficulty obtaining documentation where the death occurred overseas.”

“There’s no physical office a student can visit for face to face questions or direct number to get through to the special con team. Some students have also reported they have been provided inaccurate advice when enquiring at the Student Centre.”

The University was unable to reply to Honi’s requests for comment or provides updates from the review.

The caseworkers also recommended that students be better informed about the appeals process, as a number of students failed units in semester one due to “unreasonable” special consideration rejections.