Report #254

DATE: March 1, 2001
PARTIES: Mr. M.M. (the Student) v UTSC


Hearing Date(s): February 8, 2001

Committee Members:
Professor Ralph Scane, Acting Chair
Professor Raymond Cummins
Mr. Ljupco Gjorjinski
Professor Olga Pugliese
Ms. Susan Scace

Secretary:
Ms. Susan Girard

In Attendance:
Mr. M.M.
Associate Dean Ian McDonald

UTSC – request for deferral of final examinations – medical and religious grounds – prevented by illness from seeing doctor on day of exam – medical certificate and evidence established serious illness – subjective nature of whether attendance was “actually prevented” by illness – see provision S.B.2 of the Calendar – Faculty’s interpretation of medical certificate requirements too rigid – regulation does not prescribe that medical advice must be sought on day of missed examination – see provision S.D.3(a) of the Calendar – delay in seeking medical attention may affect weight and credibility of evidence but not determinative – minority opinion that onus to prove illness prevented writing exam not satisfied – exams conflicted with religious obligations – dates not deferred prior to exam due to examination preparation and belief that Faculty would arrange later dates – prevented from writing exams due to busy time proceeding exams and personal concerns – any lulling effect of Faculty comments overcome when exam dates were communicated – University duty to accommodate religious requirements but students must also plan lives with University calendar in mind – University fulfilled its duty by providing opportunity to avoid actual conflicts – appeal with respect to deferral of the final examination in one course allowed – appeal with respect to deferral of final examinations in three courses dismissed – failing grade in the course to be vacated and Student to be permitted to write a deferred examination in the Faculty’s period for deferred examinations

Request for a deferral of a final examination in one course on medical grounds, and a deferral of final examinations in three courses on religious grounds. The Student claimed that he did not write the one exam because he was suffering from the flu and he was unable to leave his house on the exam date to see a doctor. He did visit his doctor 6 days after the exam. The Committee accepted the Student’s evidence as to the effect of his illness and found that the medical certificate offered adequate corroboration. The Committee observed the difficulty of enforcing the Faculty’s regulation, as described in provision S.B.2 of the Calendar, due to the necessarily subjective nature of whether attendance at an examination was “actually prevented” by illness. The Committee found that the Faculty’s interpretation of the regulation regarding requirements for medical certificates too rigid and not justified by the regulation itself. The Committee found that provision S.D.3(a) of the Calendar did not prescribe that medical advice must be sought on the day of the missed examination. The Committee observed that delay in seeking medical attention may affect the weight and credibility of evidence tendered, but that it is only one factor to be considered. A minority of the Committee found that the Student had not satisfied the onus upon him to show that he was too ill to write the exam. With respect to the request for a deferral of final examinations in three courses, the Student claimed that the scheduled dates for the examinations conflicted with his religious obligations. The Student’s petition to defer the examinations was granted and the three deferred examinations were scheduled in the two days immediately following Easter Monday. The Student claimed that he did not immediately file a petition to change the date of the deferred exams because he was busy with another examination as well as with forthcoming religious preparations, and because the Faculty had lulled him into believing that he would write the deferred examinations on a later date. Five days following the set dates for the deferred examination, the Student filed a petition for deferral on the grounds that he was unable to concentrate on the exams due to the busy time proceeding the exams and personal concerns. The Committee found that any lulling effect on the Student should have been overcome when the dates of the exams were communicated by the Faculty. The Committee observed that while the University had a duty to accommodate religious requirement by not forcing conflicts between compulsory requirements and religious holy days, students must on their part generally plan their lives with the University’s calendar in mind. The Committee found that the University fulfilled its duty by providing an opportunity to avoid actual conflict between the Student’s holy days and its examinations and that the Student chose not to avail himself of what was offered because he considered that he needed more study time than he had already provided for himself. The appeal with respect to the deferral of the final examination in one course allowed. The appeal with respect to the deferral of the final examinations in three courses dismissed. The Committee ordered that the Student’s failing grade in the course be vacated and that he be permitted to write a deferred examination in the period for deferred examinations set by the Faculty.