Report #393

DATE: December 14, 2017

PARTIES: R.S. (“the Student”) v. the University of Toronto, Mississauga (UTM)
Hearing Date(s): November 9, 2017
Committee Members:
Professor Malcolm Thorburn (Chair)
Professor Paul Kingston, Faculty Governor
Ms. Amanda Harvey-Sanchez, Student Governor
Secretary:
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Appearances:
For the Student Appellant:
Mr. R.S. (“the Student”)
For the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education:
Professor Gretchen Kerr, Vice-Dean of Academic Affairs
Mr. Timothy Linden, Assistant Registrar, Office of the Registrar
Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education – grade appeal – exemption from program requirements – deference given to course instructors absent evidence of unfairness – justifications for course policies concerning late assignments – no significant evidence of unfairness – student was an exemplary member of the faculty community – faculty support for student to be able to take a different course to fulfill program requirements – adequacy of reasons appeal allowed in part
The Student appeals a decision made by the Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education and asked the Committee for the following relief: (1) review the grades for a number of small assignments for KPE440H; (2) give the Student the opportunity to produce another assignment in satisfaction of a video assignment that he had handed in late; (3) aegrotat standing in KPE440H; (4) removal of KPE440H as a degree requirement for the Bachelor of Education degree; or (5) the option to take a course other than KPE440H in order to fulfil the specified degree requirement.
The Committee dismissed the Student’s request for all of these grounds of relief except for the opportunity to take a course other than KPE440H in fulfillment of his degree requirements. The Committee gave the course instructor considerable deference in the marks that had been allocated for the small assignments that formed part of the course, as there was no evidence of unfairness. One of the grade appeals related to an assignment that was handed in well past its due date, contrary to a course policy that set out that assignments were deducted marks for lateness and given a grade of zero if more than a week late. The Committee held that there were good reasons for policies like this one, specifically, that instructors should be able to grade assignments together to ensure that they are all subject to the same standard and cannot be expected to ascertain whether each assignment was actually completed by the deadline if it was not in their possession at that point. The Committee further found that students needed to be in the habit of actually providing deliverables when they are expected. In this case, the instructor had taken additional steps to assist students with the assignments and had provided the Student with an additional opportunity to submit a replacement assignment. The Student failed to provide adequate documentation of alleged mental health problems that prevented him from completing this substitute assignment. The Student’s request for remedies 1 – 4 was denied.
However, the Student’s request that he be allowed to take an alternative course to fulfill his degree requirements was granted based on evidence given by a professor who attested that the Student was an exemplary member of the Faculty community, and that the Faculty would do whatever they could to make sure that the Student would be able to graduate from the program. In particular, the professor would personally write Victoria College requesting that the Student be admitted to their comparable course so that he could substitute it for KPE440H.
The Committee closed by recommending that the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education put in place more robust measures to instruct and assist students with the academic appeals process, including providing more information about expectations around materials and appearing before any panels. The Committee also commented that the Dean may have provided inadequate reasons for his decision in this case. The Committee found it to be a duty incumbent upon all public decision-makers to justify their decisions in a way that provides meaningful guidance to those who are subject to those decisions. Appeal allowed in part.