DATE: May 8, 2017
PARTIES: Mr. F.Z. (the “Student”) v. the Faculty of Arts and Science/Woodsworth College
Hearing Date(s): March 28, 2017
Ms. Sara Faherty, Chair
Professor Hugh Gunz, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. Mohammad Amin, Student Panel Member Secretary:
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk and Hearing Secretary, Appeals,
Discipline and Faculty Grievances
For the Student:
Mr. Cormac Donovan, Student Lawyer, Downtown Legal Services
Ms. Jennifer Fehr, Staff Lawyer, Downtown Legal Services
For the Faculty of Arts and Science/Woodsworth College:
Professor Anne-Marie Brousseau, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs
Mr. Rob Centa, Paliare Roland
Ms. Emily Home, Paliare Roland, Articling Student
Faculty of Arts and Science/Woodsworth College – grade appeal – valid reasons to miss exam – course conflict – commuting between campuses – no accommodation required for regular travelling obligation – Committee has jurisdiction to hear whether the reasons for an absence are valid – appeal dismissed
Request to change a course grade from 70% to 80%. Student had enrolled in two courses which did not directly overlap in terms of timing, but occurred on two different campuses, so attending both would have been virtually impossible given the commute. At issue was whether this type of scheduling conflict was a valid reason for the Student missing his mid-term exam. If so, the Student requested that the weight of the mid-term exam be reallocated to his final exam so that his final grade could improve.
The Faculty of Arts and Science challenged the jurisdiction of the Committee to grant the relief sought, citing section 11.1 of the Faculty of Arts and Science Academic Handbook, which states that academic appeals involving marking concludes “with the Dean’s Office being the final level of appeal.” The Committee agreed that this policy limited their jurisdiction to review the academic merit of a Student’s work, but since the Student’s issues concerned the rules for determining whether the reasons for an absence were valid it had jurisdiction to decide this appeal. Its role was to determine whether the Division’s policies were applied fairly, and the standard for their application is reasonableness.
The Committee found that what constitutes a valid reason for missing an exam is at the discretion of the course instructor, and referred to the course syllabus in their analysis. Nothing in the syllabus language suggested a specific process the instructor would follow to determine whether an absence was valid and so under these circumstances, the process was followed (consulting with officials) was reasonable. The Committee did not distinguish between course conflicts that involved a direct overlap and courses that do not overlap directly but are located so far away from each other that a commute makes it either unlikely or impossible for a student to attend both. A regular travelling obligation that made it impossible for a student to attend a course on a consistent basis would not be one that instructors are expected to accommodate.
The Student submitted documentation of his Narcissistic Personality Disorder, however, the Committee declined to give it weight since he had not asked for any academic accommodations related to a disability before or during the course. The Committee found that together, the course syllabus and the Faculty of Arts and Science policy on course conflicts led to the conclusion that the Student’s absence was reasonably found to be invalid, and there was no basis for moving the weight of his midterm exam to the final exam. Appeal dismissed.