Report #290

DATE: February 2, 2004
PARTIES: Ms. L. (the Student) v. The School of Graduate Studies


Hearing Date(s): December 3, 2003

Committee Members:
Assistant Dean Jane Kidner, Chair
Professor Phil Byer
Professor John Furedy
Professor David Jenkins
Mr. Adam Watson

Secretary:
Mr. Paul Holmes, Judicial Affairs Officer

Appearances:

For the Student:

Ms. L. (the “Student”)

For SGS:
Professor Joan Cherry, Associate Dean, Division II (Social Sciences), SGS
Ms. Jane Alderdice, Coordinator, Policy, Program and Liaison, SGS
Professor Anne Jordon, Associate Chair, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning (the “Graduate Department”), OISE/UT

School of Graduate Studies – request for examination to be remarked by external examiner – Procedural Guide for Externally Rereading an Examination – capacity of examiners challenged – allegations of personal and generalized bias – no jurisdiction to assess correctness of exam marks or competence of examiners unless reasonable apprehension of bias – no evidence of personal bias – examiners did not know Student’s identity or status – no evidence of generalized bias – collective mindset against acceptance of Student’s theoretical approach improbable – minority opinion that discrepancy between prior marks and failure on exam, and potential lack of specific math expertise of faculty cause for concern – minority opinion that letter from Faculty to Chair of Graduate Department Student Appeals Committee attempted to intimidate Student – appeal dismissed

Request to have a comprehensive examination remarked by an external examiner in accordance with the Faculty’s Procedural Guide for Externally Rereading an Examination. The Student challenged the capacity of the examiners to properly evaluate her approach to the questions, asserted that her answers had not been read fully and carefully, claimed that the examiners displayed an incomplete and distorted knowledge of the literature, and had distorted what she said in her answers. She also asserted that there was a generalized bias against her “scientific” approach, and a personal bias against her on the part of one or more examiners, both of which were operating against her and which contributed to the result on the exam. On the issues of the substantive correctness of the assessments of the exam, the Committee found that it was not the job of the Committee to assess the correctness of exam marks or the competence of the University’s examiners. The Committee agreed with the reasons of the Graduate Academic Appeals Board that “[u]nless there is something, such as a reasonable apprehension of bias, to cause a failure of confidence in what has been done, the assessment process must come to an end.” On the issue of personal bias, the Committee found no evidence to suggest that the faculty who marked the Student’s exam knew her identity, and found no evidence to substantiate an allegation of bias based on the Student’s status. On the issue of general bias, the Committee found it improbable that the faculty possessed a collective mindset against the acceptance of the Student’s theoretical approach, and no evidence was presented to support the claim. A minority of the Committee stated that it was concerned with the discrepancy between the Student’s prior marks on her coursework and her failure on the comprehensive exam, and with the potential lack of specific math expertise of the faculty who marked the Student’s exam. The minority observed that a letter from the Faculty to the Chair of the Graduate Department’s Student Appeals Committee appeared to be an attempt to intimidate the Student. Appeal dismissed.