Case #257

DATE: November 6, 2001

PARTIES: G.M. (the “Student”) v. Faculty of Arts and Science

HEARING DATE: October 15, 2001

Committee Members:
Professor Emeritus Ralph Scane (Acting Chair)
Professor Clare Beghtol
Ms. Susan Scace
Professor Donna Wells

Ms Geeta Yadav

Secretary: Mr. Paul Holmes, Judicial Affairs Officer

Appearances:

For the Student Appellant:
G.M. (the “Student”)
Mr. Daniel Wigdor

For the Faculty of Arts and Science:
Associate Dean William Michelson, University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Science
Professor John Carson
Ms. Elaine Ishibashi, University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Science

The Student appealed a decision of the Academic Appeals Board of the Faculty of Arts and Science (the Faculty), dismissing an appeal from a decision of the Faculty’s Committee on Standing. The latter decision denied a petition to substitute a grade of CR for the assigned grade of D- in a course taken by the Student. The Student had sought this relief pursuant to a Faculty memorandum dealing with special academic relief which might be afforded to students following the teaching assistant (TA) strike at the University.

The Faculty interpreted the memorandum as requiring that only the effect of the strike itself could be considered in deciding whether special relief could be awarded to a petitioning student. Thus, the cumulative effect of the strike and any other factor that may have adversely affected the performance of a student could not give rise to the relief. The Academic Appeals Committee (AAC) rejected this strict interpretation, holding that the memorandum, as a remedial provision, should be given an expansive reading. The AAC stated that students seeking relief from academic harm flowing from the strike should not have to engage in an exercise in statutory interpretation to select the precise form of remedy they should seek, at peril of receiving no remedy at all if they guessed wrongly. The AAC considered that the special remedies afforded by the memorandum should be available when the effects of the strike are a significant factor among a number of factors which cumulatively justify academic relief to a student. Even if the memorandum were to be read restrictively, the AAC stated, the effect of the strike would have to be considered with respect to the individual student who is petitioning, not with respect to some ‘typical’ student. The AAC stated that the cumulative effect of all adverse conditions affecting a student's performance may be considered in weighing whether the relief should be afforded.

The Student’s TA had been ill and unable to give all of the scheduled course seminars, resulting in four seminars lost due to the strike and four lost due to the TA’s illness. The TA was also unable to attend many of her scheduled office hours. While the Faculty presented evidence of the Student’s low overall marks, the AAC noted that this might indicate that this Student needed all the help from the seminars they could get. The AAC also expressed unease over the lack of evidence that the University had taken any substantial proactive role in dealing with the problem of missed seminars and office hours caused by the TA's illness. On the balance of probabilities, the AAC was satisfied that the Student was sufficiently adversely affected by the combination of the strike and the problems arising from the TA's illness that the relief sought should be granted. The AAC vacated the grade of D- awarded to the Student in the course and substituted for it a grade of CR.