Case #251

DATE: October 31, 2000

PARTIES: Ms. R.W. (the “Student”) v. University of Toronto at Scarborough

HEARING DATE: October 31, 2000

Committee Members:
Assistant Dean Bonnie Goldberg, Acting Chairperson
Professor Christopher Barnes
Ms Jenny Carson
Professor Brian Corman

Professor Emmet Robbins

Appearances:

For the Student Appellant:
Ms. R.W., the Student
Ms Rebecca Case, Downtown Legal Services
Ms W., sister of the Student

For University of Toronto Scarborough:
Professor Ian McDonald, Associate Dean

Secretary:
Ms Susan Girard, Acting Secretary, Academic Appeals Committee

The Student appealed a decision of the Scarborough Subcommittee on Academic Appeals refusing her late withdrawal from a course without academic penalty. The Student’s petition was based on her belief that the Teaching Assistants’ strike that occurred in January 2000 disrupted the course to such an extent as to adversely affect her performance and her ability to assess her performance by the time of the drop deadline.

The Academic Appeals Committee (AAC) stated that it respected the University's contention that the Student’s lack of a prerequisite for the course placed the Student in a perilous position, and that by the time of the drop date, the Student had sufficient indication as to her likely academic performance. The Committee stated that in its opinion, the Student showed poor judgment in remaining in the course, where she knew that she lacked the necessary prerequisite and that she relied heavily on tutorials and teaching assistance, both of which were unavailable to her during the strike. However, while the Student was disadvantaged by these factors, the Committee agreed with her contention that she may still have passed the course but for the disruption caused by the strike. The AAC noted that the Student re-took an equivalent course in the summer and passed, which in its opinion offered evidence (admittedly evidence that was not available for the Scarborough Subcommittee to consider in its deliberations), that with diligence and no unforeseen disruption, the Student could pass such a course.

The AAC stated that it is an important guiding principle that in all but the most extraordinary cases, late withdrawals after a failure has been recorded should not be granted. Retroactive withdrawals from failed courses are an extraordinary remedy. If routinely granted, they would undermine the accuracy and validity of university transcripts, which are relied upon by employers and universities as an accurate and truthful measure of a student’s performance.

Nevertheless, in this case, the Committee concluded that the appeal should be allowed. The Committee stated that it was difficult to quantify the effect of a Teaching Assistants’ strike on any particular student; for the Student, however, it may have proved insurmountable. While the Committee concluded that these circumstances were extraordinary, it stressed that the particular circumstances were very much a function of the Student’s unique characteristics and not meant to diminish the standard by which late withdrawals for academic penalty are granted.

The AAC allowed the appeal.