Report #269

DATE: October 25, 2002
PARTIES: Ms. Z.S., (“the Student”) v. the School of Graduate Studies


Hearing Date(s): September 26, 2002

Committee Members:
Assistant Dean Jane Kidner, Chair
Professor Clare Beghtol
Professor Sherwin Desser
Professor Luigi Girolametto
Mr. Mark Braun

Secretary:
Mr. Paul Holmes, Judicial Affairs Officer

In Attendance:

For the Appellant:
Ms. Z.S., (“the Student”)
Mr. Shaun Laubman, representative (Downtown Legal Services)

For the School of Graduate Studies:
Associate Dean (Physical Sciences) Rashmi Desai
Professor Shamim Sheikh, Graduate Coordinator, Graduate Department of Civil Engineering
Professor Kim Pressnail, Graduate Department of Civil Engineering

School of Graduate Studies – request that a course failure not constitute a failure for the purposes of invoking the two-failure rule – request to have an exam re–read – request to re-write a make–up exam and use an exam already written as the make–up exam – request that a grade be removed from the transcript and replaced by the mark received when the course was retaken – exemption from program requirements – illness of child and family responsibilities – permission to re-write exam rescinded – allegation of bias – reasonable apprehension of bias regarding objectivity of mark given – Faculty promise relied upon – irregularities and ambiguities in wording and application of two-failure rule – minority opinion that two-failure rule was clearly stated and Student was made aware of rule – appeal allowed – Student permitted to re-write exam and use exam mark already obtained as make–up exam – Student granted rereading of final exam in accordance with the SGS Procedural Guide for Externally Rereading an Examination Written by a Graduate Student and grade to be substituted for grade of FZ – grade of FZ in course not to be counted as a failure for purpose of invoking two-failure rule

Request for a finding that the failure in one course did not constitute a failure for the purposes of invoking the Department’s two-failure rule requiring the Student to withdraw from the program; request to have the exam in a second course re-read in accordance with the SGS Procedural Guide for Externally Rereading an Examination Written by a Graduate Student; request to re-write the make-up exam in a third course and use the exam she had already written in a subsequent term as the make-up exam; and a request that the original grade of FZ assigned to the Student in the third course be removed from her transcript and be replaced by the mark she received when she retook the course in a subsequent term. On her first attempt the Student failed the first course at issue. She reenrolled in the course and passed the course. The Student failed the second course at issue. The Student claimed that due to her child’s illness and her family responsibilities she was unable to concentrate and properly study for the final exam. The Student petitioned her FZ grade in the second course and was granted the opportunity to re-write the final exam. The Student claimed that, based on the Faculty’s promise that she would be permitted to re-write the exam in the second course, she prepared and studied for the exam up until one week prior to the exam. The Student failed the final exam for the third course at issue. The Student claimed that when she met the course Professor to discuss the failed exam he was unhelpful, that he refused to give her a copy of her exam or answer her questions, and that he told her that she was not a good student based on her other course marks. The Student wrote a supplemental exam and received a grade of FZ. With three grades of FZ on her transcript and one week prior to the date of the re-write exam for the second course at issue, the offer to re-write was withdrawn and the Student was asked to withdraw from the program. Although not enrolled, the Student re–attended the second course at issue in a subsequent term. She claimed that she received permission from the Professor to write the exam even though it would not be marked and she would not receive an official grade. The Student wrote the exam but claimed that she did not know how she did on it. The Committee found that the Student was under pressure due to family circumstances and her situation as a new immigrant to the country. With respect to the request that the Student be permitted a re–read of her final exam in the third course at issue, the Committee found that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the Student such as to question the objectivity of the mark given to the Student in course. The Committee stated that it did not want to make any finding that the Professor was biased in his marking, but rather that it is reasonable that the Student may have believed there to be bias on the part of the Professor. The Committee granted the Student’s request to have her mark in the course re-read subject to the SGS Procedural Guide for Externally Rereading an Examination Written by a Graduate Student. With respect to the request to re-write the make-up exam in the second course at issue, and to use the exam which she has already written for that same course as the make–up exam, the Committee found that the Faculty made the Student a promise, which the Student relied upon by studying for the exam, and therefore the Student ought to be permitted to write that exam. The Committee found that since the Student had already re-written the exam, she ought to be permitted to have that grade reported on her transcript, in addition to the original grade of FZ. With respect to the request for a finding that the FZ grade in the first course at issue did not constitute a failure for the purposes of invoking the two-failure rule, the Committee found that due to irregularities and ambiguities in both the wording and the application of the rule, the Student’s original grade of FZ in the course ought not to count toward the rule such as to trigger her removal from the program. The two-failure rule as written did not clearly state that it would apply to a course which was failed and subsequently taken and passed; the policy as it had been applied to the Student had not been consistent, creating the potential for misunderstanding; the Student was told by the Faculty that the policy did not apply in her situation; and the Faculty was uncertain and confused as to the proper application of the policy in the situation. A minority of the committee found that the Faculty stated the two-failure rule to all students and the Student was made aware of the rule when she was asked to withdraw from the program prior to her third failed course. Appeal allowed. The Committee ordered that the Student be permitted to re-write the exam in the second course at issue, and use the mark she obtained in the exam she had already written in the course in the subsequent term as that make–up exam. The Student was granted a rereading of her final exam in the third course at issue in accordance with the SGS Procedural Guide for Externally Rereading an Examination Written by a Graduate Student. The FZ grade in the first course at issue was not be counted as a failure for the purpose of invoking the two-failure rule to remove the Student from the program.