Report #373

DATE: June 5, 2014
PARTIES: Ms. R.S. (the Student) v. the School of Graduate Studies

Hearing Date(s): March 19, 2014
Committee Members:
Ms. Emily Orchard (Chair)
Professor Andrea Sass-Kortsak
Mr. Adrian De Leon
Secretary:
Ms. Sinead Cutt, Administrative Assistant, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Appearances:
For the Student Appellant:
Ms. Andrea Wobick, Counsel for the Student
Ms. R.S., the Appellant (“the Student”)
For the School of Graduate Studies:
Mr. Robert Centa, Lawyer for the Division
Professor Jane Alderdice, Director, Quality Assessment and Governance
Professor Alan Saks, Professor of Organizational Behaviour and HR Management, UTM
Ms. Deborah Campbell, Access/Information Services Specialist, Robarts Library
School of Graduate Studies – late withdrawal without academic penalty – re-instatement in program despite failure to meet program requirements – documented personal and medical issues – appeal of some of the courses five years after the Student’s initial registration – Student’s last-minute submission of documents not accepted – students have a duty to make themselves aware of their rights and responsibilities and the policies of the programs – late withdrawal without academic penalty granted when the Student’s already-existing circumstances significantly and unpredictably worsen – the Student’s successful performance in some courses cannot be relied on to suggest that she could properly perform in all of her courses – Student not entitled to monetary relief for the Course in which she was granted late withdrawal – late withdrawal and aegrotat standing not allowed for four courses on the merits and untimeliness of the appeal – administrative errors that led to the failure of Accessibility Services to assess the Student cannot be relied upon without a temporal limit – the University cannot be expected to accommodate a condition of which it was unaware – appeal dismissed in part
Appeal from the School of Graduate Studies’ (SGS) decision to terminate the Student’s enrolment in her Program, and a request for late withdrawal without academic penalty from five courses. The Student relied on her uncontested serious personal and medical problems, together with the Faculty’s alleged failure to sufficiently accommodate them, as the basis for her failure to perform satisfactorily in the courses. The Student was terminated from the Program as a result of her failure to maintain a mid-B average. At issue in this case was whether the Student's disabilities were sufficiently accommodated by the Faculty and whether any alleged failure to accommodate the Student’s disabilities justified the extraordinary relief of late withdrawal without academic penalty and substitution of aegrotat standing five years after the earliest courses were undertaken.
The Committee denied the Student’s request to admit additional documents on the eve of the Continuation Hearing, noting that the Student’s failure to make this request in a timely fashion was unreasonable (especially given that the matter was adjourned for six months).
The Committee rejected the Student’s assertion that she was unaware of her right to appeal grades in various courses and that the Faculty had a duty to personally inform her of this right, emphasizing that students have a duty to familiarize themselves with their rights and responsibilities and the policies of their respective programs and to act in a timely fashion to avail themselves thereof, and further that the Student was made aware of her right to appeal in the SGS Calendar.
With respect to the first Course, the Committee found that the extraordinary relief of late withdrawal without academic penalty was warranted because the Student’s already-existing circumstances became significantly more severe and could not have been reasonably anticipated by the Student. The Committee also noted that the Student’s ability to perform well in other courses and her decision to drop courses before the drop date cannot be relied upon to suggest that she was well enough to perform well in all of her courses or assess the severity of the impact of an FZ on her status in the program. The Committee stated that is did not aim to establish a precedent that would empower students to turn a wilfully blind eye to University policies only to later seek late withdrawal without academic penalty on the basis that they were unaware of such policies; students are not absolved of their obligations to familiarize themselves with relevant rights and responsibilities, even if they are entitled to special accommodation. The Committee also noted that students are not entitled to monetary refunds of courses for which they are granted late withdrawal without academic penalty.
With respect to the second, third, fourth, and fifth courses, the Committee dismissed the Student’s appeals for late withdrawal without academic penalty and aegrotat standing as untimely and without merit. [The courses were taken between Winter 2009 and Winter 2012, and though the exact circumstances differ in the reasoning for each course, the reasoning will be discussed together here.] The Committee noted its disappointment at the administrative error that led to the failure of Accessibility Services to assess the Student; however, such a failure must have a temporal limit. The Student cannot rely on that failure to explain away the FZs she received in courses taken months and years after her initial attempt to enlist the office’s support. The Student was aware of her tenuous academic and personal circumstances and ought to have sought relief in a timely fashion; there was no satisfactory explanation of her failure to inform Accessibility Services of her injuries and issues. The duty to accommodate students can only be imposed upon the University in circumstances in which it is made aware of a student’s disability. There was also no evidence to support the Student’s allegations that the Professors in one of her courses were biased against her.
The Committee concluded that the SGS’s decision to terminate the Student’s registration was entirely reasonable, particularly as the record indicated that this decision followed numerous accommodations and several clear written warnings to the Student that her academic standing was in jeopardy.
Appeal dismissed in part.