DATE: April 28, 2016
PARTIES: Ms. A.W. (the Student) v. the Toronto School of Theology
Hearing Date(s): April 11, 2016
Professor Andrew Green, Chair
Professor Andrea Sass-Kortsak
Mr. Alex Ivovic
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, and Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Assistant, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
For the Student Appellant:
Mr. A.W., the Appellant (“the Student”)
Mr. Geoffrey D. K. Wiebe, Counsel
For the Toronto School of Theology:
Mr. Robert A. Centa, Counsel
Professor Alan Hayes
Dr. Daniella Mallinick
Professor Jaroslav Skira
Toronto School of Theology – exemption from program requirements – Student wanted to transfer from the ThD program to the Faculty’s new PhD program without completing the application requirements – Student appealed to the Committee rather than pursuing further internal appeals, but this was not a basis for an adverse inference to be drawn against the Student – Student was arguing against the fairness of the policy itself, not the policy’s application, so the matter was outside of the Committee’s jurisdiction – Student did not take advantage of the opportunities available to him to transfer programs – appeal dismissed
Request to transfer from the ThD program into the new PhD program in the research doctorate in theological studies without being required to complete two further courses. The Student did not apply to the bridging program designed to allow transfer into the new PhD program despite knowledge of this option, and instead wrote to the Director of the TST requesting to transfer from ‘ThD’ into ‘PhD’ nomenclature. The Student petitioned to the Advanced Degree Appeals Division of the TST, stating that he had not been permitted transfer in the nomenclature without being required to complete two further courses. At the hearing, the Student submitted evidence supporting his claims that he had substantially met the outcomes of the Required Courses given that he had authored an academic book, taught and designed an undergraduate course, and spent time in the learning community in Trinity College, and stated that it would have been a serious delay in his studies to have taken the courses. The Academic Appeals Committee of the GSC denied the Student’s petition, noting that the Student did not choose apply to the PhD program through the existing bridging option, and did not find the arguments made in support of his appeal persuasive. The matter was sent back to the Faculty to determine whether there was room for exploration of an accommodation within the existing bridging option.
The Student then appealed to the Academic Appeals Committee, requesting a declaration that he had met the academic requirements set out by the TST for transfer from the ThD into the PhD program through equivalency to the Required Courses, and directing the TST to transfer him into the PhD program immediately. The Committee noted the unusual manner in which the appeal came before it: the GSC decision did not decide on the merits of the Student’s appeal but instead sent the matter back to an earlier stage in the appeals process, and the Student then appealed to the Committee. The Committee also noted that no adverse inference should be drawn against the Student for coming before the Committee rather than pursuing further internal appeals.
With respect to the Committee’s jurisdiction to provide the remedy requested by the Student, the Committee noted that its role is not to change Faculty policy but rather to ensure that a policy was applied fairly and consistently. The Committee found that the Student was in effect arguing about the fairness of the Faculty’s policy, not about the fairness of the application of the policy to the Student. (See Reports #368, #359-1, and #371.) Despite some procedural fairness issues relating to the transparency and updating of the TST’s Handbook and processes, the Committee concluded that the Student was not treated unfairly. The Committee took into account the fact that the Student did not avail himself of his many opportunities to enter the bridging program, that he did not approach the TST to see if he could obtain an exemption from the requirements in a timely manner, and that he did not take advantage of the ample opportunities the TST provided him with to seek resolution of his appeal. The Committee also rejected the Student’s assertion that the process was procedurally unfair because of a lack of reasons by the Academic Appeals Committee of the GSC, noting that the GSC decision sent the matter back to an earlier stage in the appeals process and gave reasons for this decision. The Committee encouraged the TST and the Student to work together to seek if they could find a solution. Appeal dismissed.