Report #349

DATE: November 16, 2010
PARTIES: B.B. (the Student) v. University of Toronto, School of Graduate Studies


Hearing Date(s): October 20, 2010

Committee Members:
Professor Hamish Stewart, Chair
Professor Maydianne Andrade
Professor Robert Baker
Professor Michael Marrus
Priatharsini Sivananthajothy

Appearances:

For the Student Appellant:
B.B. (the Student)
Daniel Goldbloom, DLS for the Student

For the University of Toronto, School of Graduate Studies:
Professor Berry Smith, Vice-Dean of the School of Graduate Studies
Jane Alderdice, Director, Quality Assessment and Governance, School of Graduate Studies

University of Toronto – School of Graduate Studies – late withdrawal without academic penalty – University of Toronto Grading Practices Policy – University of Toronto Grading Practices Policy s. II.2 – University of Toronto’s Graduate Grading and Evaluation Practices Policy – meaningful feedback – 5% of work received prior to withdrawal deadline – Faculty of Arts and Sciences grading Policy – norms of procedural fairness – type of course – knowing when the University Grading Policy would apply – sufficiently constituting meaningful feedback – compliance with University Grading Policy – application of two grading policies – appeal dismissed – minority dissent

Appeal of a decision to deny the Student his petition for a late withdrawal without academic penalty. The Committee reviewed the University of Toronto’s Grading Practices Policy, specifically, s. II.2. stating that at least one piece of term work shall be returned to the student prior to the last date for withdrawal from the course without academic penalty. The Committee further reviewed the University of Toronto’s Graduate Grading and Evaluation Practices Policy, specifically its purposes and grading policy section. The Student conceded both grading schemes technically applied. The Student submitted that the course in which he wanted to withdraw did not comply with the spirit of para. II.2(f) of the University Grading Policy in that he had not received meaningful feedback. The Student submitted that he had only received work amounting to 5% of the final grade and that it did not constitute meaningful feedback. The Student further submitted that in similar courses offered in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, instructors were required to return marked assignments worth at least 10% of the total mark before the deadline for withdrawal without academic penalty. The Student submitted that he was entitled to the remedy of late withdrawal without academic penalty because the spirit of the policy had not been followed even if it had technically been complied with. The School of Graduate Studies, in a submission not previously raised until the hearing before the Academic Appeals Committee, submitted in the appeal to the Committee that because the University Grading Policy was not explicitly incorporated into the Graduate Grading Policy, it did not apply to the School of Graduate Studies. The Committee held that the norms of procedural fairness demand that both parties be entitled in advance of the hearing all of the issues to be raised. The Committee held that, since this argument was new to the hearing, the Student could delay the hearing to change his submissions. Counsel for the Student stated that he was prepared to proceed and would not object to the new evidence offered by the School of Graduate Studies regarding the University Grading Policy. In response to the new submissions, Counsel for the Student submitted that the University’s reliance on the new argument indicated that the University no longer took issue with the Student’s original arguments. Counsel for the Student also held that the University’s new submissions indicated that the course was not a course of the kind where the application of the University Grading Policy would be unsuitable and that there appeared to be no way that a student in the School of Graduate Studies could determine whether or not the University Grading Policy would apply to any given course. A majority of the Committee held that the evaluation received by the Student was sufficient to constitute meaningful feedback and complied with the strict interpretation and spirit of the University’s grading policies. The Committee held that, although only 5% worth of the final grade had been returned, less than what was customary in the Faculty of Arts and Science, it still constituted a meaningful amount. Appeal dismissed.

A minority of the Committee found that the evaluation received by the Student did not comply with the spirit of the University’s grading policies and would have granted the remedy sought.