Case #260

DATE: December 19, 2001

PARTIES: S.G. (the “Student”) v. Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering

HEARING DATE: November 29, 2001

Committee Members:
Assistant Dean Bonnie Goldberg, Acting Chairperson
Professor Clare Beghtol
Professor Sherwin Desser
Professor Ian McDonald
Ms. Geeta Yadav

Appearances:

For the Student Appellant:
S.G. (the “Student”)
Mr Vaino Poysa, student caseworker, Downtown Legal Services

For the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering:
Ms Barbara McCann, Registrar, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
Professor Raymond Kwong, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
Professor Andrew Jardine, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
Ms Margaret Tompsatt, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering

In Attendance:
Mr. Paul Holmes, Judicial Affairs Officer, University of Toronto

The Student appealed a decision of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering (the “Faculty”) Ombuds Committee confirming a decision of the Faculty Registrar. That decision determined that there was no basis on which to alter the assessed grade awarded to the Student in a course taken at the University in the 2000 Winter Session.

The course evaluation comprised of two midterms (worth 25% each of the final grade) and a final examination (worth 50% of the final grade). The Student obtained a higher than average grade in the first midterm and a lower than average grade in the second. The Student contracted the flu the day prior to the final examination. The Student wrote the examination anyway, and performed very poorly. As a result, the Student submitted a Petition for Consideration in Final Examination for the course, which was granted. The Student was assessed a mark of 59% in the course, which fell below the required minimum of 60%. As a result, the Student was refused further registration in the Faculty. The Faculty’s Committee on Examinations refused the Student’s request to re-examine the assessed grade.

The Academic Appeals Committee (the “AAC”) noted that the Faculty did not offer students the ability to write supplemental examinations where circumstances beyond the control of the student adversely affected the student’s performance. Rather, the Faculty used a ‘Term Work Report’, which states that to make the necessary assessment of the student’s performance on the final grade, the Committee on Examinations requests information about the student’s term work and any additional information from the professor. The Report includes a table with information about the Final Examination, Closely Supervised Term Work, Term Work Not Closely Supervised, and class averages for each category. When the student performs poorly on the final exam for valid reasons, the Report states that the Committee “often infers a candidate’s final course mark” using a formula. In the Student’s case, the instructor only used the second of the Student’s midterm tests to determine her assessed grade and that the first midterm test had been “easy”. The ‘inferred mark’ formula suggested by the Faculty for these cases was not used.

The AAC stated that the case turned on whether the first midterm should have counted in the student’s assessed mark, and whether the Faculty erred in the procedure it used to determine the grade. While the AAC concurred with the Faculty’s opinion that a professor’s impressions of the appropriate grade for a student should not be ignored, it stated that if the Faculty is to offer assessed grades rather than supplemental exams, the Term Work Report should be used in its entirety and the full consequences of the assessed grade should be considered more closely. The AAC was satisfied that the Committee on Examinations’ faith in the instructor’s comments that the second test results more closely correlated with the final examination was not a sufficient reason to break from established and expected practice. The Committee stated that an assessment that assumes so much about a student’s performance, and which has such a drastic result, is problematic. If the Faculty wishes to employ a system that infers marks, the AAC stated, it cannot do so in an opaque manner. The Faculty accepted the student’s petition that she was ill, and yet awarded her an assessed grade that in the end was punitive. The AAC further stated that the Student should not be penalized because the instructor gave an examination which he later considered too easy.

In allowing the appeal, the AAC held that the Faculty must award the Student an assessed exam grade based on the formula outlined in the Term Work Report. While the AAC took the view that this formula was complicated and mechanistic, it noted that this was the formula suggested by the Faculty to provide additional information in these situations. As such, it found no compelling argument by the Faculty as to why it was not employed in the Student’s situation.

The Student’s appeal was allowed.