Report #391

DATE: December 8, 2017

PARTIES: Y.A. (“the Student”) v. the University of Toronto, Mississauga (UTM)
Hearing Date(s): November 6, 2017
Committee Members:
Ms. Sara Faherty, Chair
Professor Andrea Sass-Kortsak, Faculty Governor
Ms. Mala Kashyap, Student Governor
Secretary:
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk and Hearing Secretary, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Appearances:
For the Student Appellant:
Mr. Y.A. (the Student)
For the UTM:
Professor Michael Lettieri, Vice Dean, Undergraduate Programs
Ms. Renu Kanga Fonseca, Director, Student Recruitment and Admissions
UTM – Undergraduate programs – attempt to drop a course after the add/drop deadline - request for refund of tuition fees - jurisdiction of Academic Appeals Committee to review fee policy - no jurisdiction to refund tuition fees – fee policy concerning add/drop dates is not unfair in a broader sense - appeal dismissed
Student appeal from a decision of the Fee Consideration Committee at the UTM Registrar’s Office, which disallowed the Student’s request for a fee refund and reversal of charges placed on the Student’s account. The disputed charges related to a year-long course that the Student dropped after the relevant add/drop deadline. The Student dropped the course after the last date to which he would have been entitled to get even a partial refund of his fees.
The Committee declined to review the Fee Consideration Committee’s ruling because Section 2.1 of the Terms of Reference that govern the Academic Appeals Committee of the Governing Council permits the Committee to “hear and consider appeals made by students against decisions of faculty, college or school councils (or committees thereof) in the application of academic regulations and requirements” and a decision by a registrarial fee refund committee is not a decision that applied an academic regulation to a student. The Committee’s decision is aligned with the fact that the Committee is limited to academic remedies (e.g. late withdrawal without academic penalty, reinstatement into a program) and not the kind of financial relief requested by the Student.
The Committee nonetheless considered the fairness of the practice of imposing add/drop deadline because, broadly understood, it is an academic regulation. There were two potential grounds for review. The first is that the policy was not applied consistently. On this ground, the Committee found that the goal of the add/drop deadline was not tied to a Student’s ability to predict whether they would succeed in the course, rather, it was to allow Students the opportunity to drop a course once they have an idea of what the course is about, whether they are able to understand and connect with the instructor, and the amount of time they should be expected to devote to the course. Even when a student encounters an unforeseen problem that arose after the add/drop deadline had passed, and the Committee permits late withdrawal without academic penalty, the Committee does not have the authority to reverse the associated tuition and fees (Report #302).
On the second ground of review, the fairness of the add/drop deadline as an academic regulation, the Committee agreed that the common understanding of the word “refund” tends to relate exclusively to money that has already been paid and that it would be clearer to expressly remind students who drop year-long courses that they will still be responsible for any future payments. Nonetheless, the Committee concluded that the policy was sufficiently communicated to the Student, and the University’s use of the term “refund” did not cause the Student to take an action he otherwise would not have taken. Appeal dismissed.