DATE: August 10, 2016
PARTIES: V.S. (“the Student”) v. the School of Graduate Studies (“SGS”)
Hearing Date(s): Wednesday, May 25, 2016 and Thursday, June 16, 2016
Emily Orchard (Chair)
Professor Paul Kingston, Faculty Governor
Ms. Susan Froom, Student Governor
Mr. Chris Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances (May 25, 2016)
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances (June 16, 2016)
For the Student Appellant:
Mr. V.S. (“the Student”) (via Skype)
Ms. Ejona Xega, Law Student, Downtown Legal Services
Ms. Rabiya Mansoor, Observer, Downtown Legal Services (June 16, 2016)
For School of Graduate Studies:
Mr. Rob Centa, Counsel
Professor Jay Malcolm Graduate Coordinator, Faculty of Forestry (May 25, 2016)
Professor Mohini Sain, Dean, Faculty of Forestry, (May 25, 2016 – in person; June 16, 2016 - via Skype)
Professor Sanjay Nayak, Director-General, CIPET (June 16, 2016 – via teleconference)
Ms. Deborah Paes Graduate Administrator, Faculty of Forestry (May 25, 2016)
Ms. Emma Thacker, Associate Director, Graduate Affairs, School of Graduate Studies (May 25, 2016)
Professor Luc de Nil, Vice-Dean, Students, SGS (May 25, 2016)
Ms. Josie Lalonde, Associate Director, Student Services – Student Systems and Records, SGS (June 16, 2016)
School of Graduate Studies – dismissal from Faculty of Forestry’s Ph.D. program – undocumented illness – duty to accommodate – lack of adequate supervision not raised in timely manner –– appeal dismissed
Appeal from the SGS Graduate Academic Appeals Board’s (GAAB) decision to terminate the Student’s enrolment in in the Faculty of Forestry’s Ph.D. program (the “Program”) and a request for reinstatement in the Program. The Student alleged that his progress in the Program was impeded by ongoing illness; a lack of adequate supervision; and/or his registration in the program was terminated prematurely.
On the first ground of appeal, by the Student’s own admission, he neither told his supervisors or anyone else at the University that he continued to be unwell nor submitted any documentation to support this claim. The Student’s failure to disclose his illness absolved the Faculty of the duty to accommodate it. The Panel found that there was no evidence that the Faculty knew, or ought to have known, that the Student was sick and the Faculty could not have accommodated an illness of which it was unaware. The lack of any kind of evidence supporting an ongoing illness was fatal to the Student’s suggestion that his illness ought to have been accommodated by the Division and, ultimately, to the first ground of his appeal.
On the second ground of appeal, the lack of adequate supervision, the Panel found it telling that the first time that this ground of appeal had been raised was when the Student commenced his appeal. The Panel found that the failure to mention this issue with supervision was part of a much larger failure on the Student’s part to communicate with his supervisors about his illness, his struggles in the program, and his need for more support. The Panel refused to interfere with the GAAB’s evaluation of the Student’s performance in the absence of new evidence that might warrant the Panel’s interference.
Finally, the Panel held that while it may feel compassion towards one adversely affect by its decision, it could not modify the GAAB’s decision on this ground.