Deferral Fee Statement

Dear President Jacques Frémont, Administration Committee, and Vice-Provost, Equity, Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Awad Ibrahim,

We write to you today as elected student leaders representing undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa. We are deeply concerned that the University is considering imposing an administrative fee of $100 to students requesting deferrals for course evaluations starting September 2024. 

As you are aware, the Declaration of Absence from an Evaluation was approved by the University Senate on April 17, 2023, and became effective September 18, 2023. It allows students to declare one absence to an evaluation per course per semester on medical grounds or in the case of exceptional personal circumstances, without documentation.  

We have been informed that an administrative fee associated to this process is being considered due to the increased number of deferral requests. While we can certainly appreciate the administrative strain this causes, this increase was entirely predictable. We are deeply concerned about the precedent which would be set by the University charging students for their failure to predict and prepare for the impacts of policies it set. 

To our knowledge, five options were considered to mitigate the increased number of deferral requests: 

  1. Re-weighting evaluations for students having approved deferral request; 
  2. Making professors responsible for the management of all deferral requests except final exams; 
  3. Modifying the deferral request form to require documentation for any deferral request; 
  4. Adding an administrative fee to deferral requests;  
  5. Having the Central administration manage deferral requests for midterms and not just finals.


The Central Administration’s choice to maintain the current system and to add an administrative fee is disappointing, unjustified and inequitable. The implementation of such a fee would create a financial barrier that disproportionately affects lower-income students living on limited and unstable income in a cost-of-living crisis. Implementing fees for evaluation deferrals reinforces the notion that access to academic accommodations is contingent upon financial resources. This perpetuates systemic inequalities and undermines the principle of equal access to education. Furthermore, the implementation of a deferral fee does not address concerns of misuse of the self-declaration tool and rather makes it accessible only to the most privileged students. 

Requiring ill students who cannot afford this considerable cost to attend evaluations can also have consequences that extend beyond individual academic performance, affecting the health, comfort, and well-being of the entire academic community. We should not be condoning the spread of contagious illnesses, putting the health and well-being of other students and faculty members at risk, particularly immunosuppressed members of our community or those with disabilities.  

We are also concerned by the rumours circulating regarding the potential implementation of a similar fee structure for program changes, including alterations to majors and minors. University is and must remain a time for personal growth and development, intellectual exploration, and self-discovery. Such a policy would hinder lower-income students’ ability to explore their academic interests and pursue their passions freely. It is essential to recognize that students’ interests and aspirations may evolve over time, and they should be supported in their journey of self-discovery without unnecessary financial constraints. 

As such, we demand that the University do not adopt these inequitable administrative fees and request a written response within the next ten (10) business days including the following:  

  1. An explanation of the failure of the University to prepare for the impact of a policy it put in place. 
  2. A justification as to why this option was selected amongst all those considered. 
  3. An explanation of how the University calculated the seemingly arbitrary $100 fee, including whether it will make a profit from it.  
  4. A clarification regarding whether a similar fee structure will be applied to program changes and/or other administrative decisions. 


Furthermore, given that to our knowledge, no students were consulted through this process, we insist that a meeting be held with University representatives and student leaders from the Student Union and Registered Student Governments to further address this important issue. We ask that this meeting be scheduled promptly and take place before the end of the academic term. 

Thank you for your attention.  

University of Ottawa Student’s Union 

Criminology Students’ Association 

Student Association of the Faculty of Arts 

Feminist and Gender Studies Students Association 

Engineering Students’ Society 

Conflict Studies and Human Rights Association 

Health Sciences Student Association 

International, Political and Policy Studies Student Association

Nutrition Sciences Student Association

Indigenous Students’ Association 

Human Kinetics Student Association 

Development Student Association  

Psychology Students’ Association  

Sociology and Anthropology Students’ Association 

Science Student Association 

Undergraduate Nursing Student Association 

Communications Students’ Association 

Economics Students’ Association 

Telfer Students’ Association 

Computer Science Student Association 

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