Report #376

DATE: October 14, 2014
PARTIES: Ms. M.B. (the Student) v. the Department of Leadership, Adult and Higher Education, OISE, and School of Graduate Studies

Hearing Date(s): September 22, 2014
Committee Members:
Professor Andrew Green, Chair
Professor Avrum Gotlieb
Mr. Andrew Girgis
Secretary:
Mr. Christopher Lang, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Appearances:
For the Student Appellant:
Ms. M.B., the Appellant (“the Student”)
For the Department of Leadership, Adult and Higher Education, OISE, and School of Graduate Studies:
Mr. Robert Centa, Counsel
Professor A. Hildyard
Professor T. Chambers
Professor Luc de Nil, SGS
OISE and School of Graduate Studies – reinstatement to program – jurisdiction – Student failed her comprehensive PhD examination three times – Student made a range of requests for relief including personal remedies and departmental policy changes – Committee’s powers do not extend beyond orders of an academic nature – departmental policies enacted after a decision may be relevant in an appeal in some circumstances, but here the changes did not demonstrate any unfairness to the Student – appeal dismissed
Request for re-instatement to the program, along with personal remedies and Departmental policy changes. The Student failed her comprehensive PhD examination three times, and her registration was subsequently terminated. The Student appealed the termination to the Graduate Academic Appeals Board (GAAB), requesting a range of relief including development of policies at OISE, training of staff and faculty, revision to her status as a student, reinstatement to the program or transfer to another program, and waiver of accrued penalties and fines. The GAAB found that it lacked jurisdiction to grant many of the remedies requested, and concluded that the only issues within its jurisdiction were whether the decision to terminate the Student should be upheld and whether any recommendations should be made regarding student fees. The GAAB allowed the Student to continue the appeal through the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC) pursuant to SGS policies. The GDAAC dismissed the appeal. The Student then appealed again to the GAAB, which dismissed the appeal. The GAAB rejected the Student’s assertion that the Department had not adequately supervised and prepared the Student for the exams.
The Student then appealed to the Academic Appeals Committee. The Student requested personal remedies (including reinstatement to the program, reactivation of funding, a recommendation to expedite convocation, consideration for awards and grants, a declaration that she was suitable for candidacy, expedited ethical review, removal of adverse notations from her transcript, and a written apology from the advisory committee), departmental remedies (including that the Department establish a committee on equity and accessibility, the creation of a post-doctoral fellowship, and that she be the first recipient of the fellowship), and SGS remedies (involving the creation of a staff and incoming student training program).
The Committee dismissed the appeal on its merits and lack of jurisdiction. With respect to the Committee’s jurisdiction, its powers to grant a remedy encompassed only the request by the Student for reinstatement to the program and to remove notations about the termination from the Student’s transcript. The Committee’s powers did not extend to any of the other remedies requested by the Student; the Committee is limited to making orders of an academic nature and considering whether academic regulations have been applied correctly, consistently, and fairly. The Committee agreed with the GAAB that the Student was provided with adequate supervision and preparation by the Department, noting that the only inconsistency in the application of the Department’s policies was the provision of a third attempt at the comprehensive exam instead of the usual two, which was to the Student’s benefit. With respect to the Student’s request to have the advantage of any new policies put in place after her termination, the Committee stated that its function is to examine the application of policies existing at the time of the initial decision, also noting that new policies may shed light on any unfairness in the application of the existing policies and therefore in some circumstances may be relevant to an appeal. The Committee found that the Department’s policies did not change in a manner that demonstrated any unfairness to the Student or that would have led to any benefit to the Student. Appeal dismissed.
The Committee recommended that the SGS and the Department make processes around decisions such as termination and related appeals as clear as possible.