Case #256

DATE: May 9, 2001

PARTIES: Mr. R.R. (the “Student”) v. University of Toronto, Faculty of Arts and Science

HEARING DATE: April 3, 2001

Committee Members:
Assistant Dean Bonnie Goldberg, Acting Chair
Mr. Muhammad Basil Ahmad
Professor Christopher Barnes
Professor Vivek Goel
Professor Kenneth Sevcik

Ms Susan Girard, Acting Secretary, Academic Appeals Committee

Appearances:

For the Student Appellant:
Mr. R.R. (the “Student”)
Mr. Barry Stagg, for the Student
Dr. K.R., father of the Student

For the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Science:
Ms Sari Springer
Associate Dean William Michelson
Ms Karel Swift, University Registrar, University of Toronto
Ms Susan McDonald, Registrar, University of Toronto, Victoria College

The Student appealed a decision of the Academic Appeals Board of the University’s Faculty of Arts and Science denying the Student’s request to either withdraw without academic penalty from three of the Student’s courses, or to recalculate the Student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) for each of the courses, using the old policy.

The University revised its Grading Practices Policy to provide that no GPA value would be attributed to grades lower than 50%. The Calendar for the relevant academic year had gone to print prior to the revised policy being passed. In an effort to communicate the changes, two documents were distributed to students with notification of the new grading practices policy. In accordance with the revised policy, the Student was awarded a grade point value of 0.0 in the three courses the subject of the appeal. The Student claimed he had not received any notification of the changes, and requested two alternate remedies (withdrawal from the courses without academic penalty or recalculation of his GPA to the ‘old’ Grading Practices Policy). Either remedy would, if granted, enable the Student to obtain his degree.

The Academic Appeals Committee (“AAC”) affirmed the Faculty’s decision that the Student should not be permitted late withdrawal from his courses without academic penalty. However, the AAC decided that there were compelling reasons to apply the ‘old’ Grading Practices Policy to the Student’s academic year. The AAC rejected the University’s argument that to allow the appeal would handcuff the University’s ability to make changes necessary to administer its program. The AAC stated that a decision in favour of the Student highlighted deficiencies in how the change was communicated to the Student, in the context of the importance of the change. In the AAC’s opinion, the Faculty did not go far enough in implementing the new policy in a timely, reasonable and individualized manner. A clearer enunciation of the new policy and continued reiterations of the changes to the students once they returned in the Fall would have been appropriate. The AAC stated that students should not be disadvantaged retroactively or prospectively by the implementation of the new system and that questions of ambiguity should be resolved in favour of the student. The AAC accepted that the University can make changes to grading policies; however, the University had failed to adequately communicate the significant policy changes throughout the year. The AAC noted that when academic institutions implement major changes mid-program, students are often given the option to elect under which policy he or she will proceed. The Committee furthermore stated that it may have been valuable to delay implementation of the revised policy by one year in order to revise and update Calendars. Finally, continued promotion and advertisement of the changes to the program throughout the year, particularly at key times during the academic year, such as the drop date, would have served to ensure a student could not claim ignorance of the changes. While the AAC took the view that the Student had not shown appropriate diligence, he consistently maintained that he would have dropped the courses if he had known of the changes. The AAC was satisfied that the Student had demonstrated that his entire year of study would have proceeded differently but for his knowledge of the change, and thus he had been unduly affected by the change.

The AAC allowed the appeal and ordered that the old Grading Practices Policy be applied to the Student’s results for the relevant academic year.