Report 405

DATE: August 27, 2019
PARTIES:
R.M. (the “Student”) v. Faculty of Arts and Science

HEARING DATE: N/A (Written Submissions Only)

Committee Member:
Professor Hamish Stewart, Senior Chair

For the Faculty of Arts and Science:
Mr. Thomas MacKay, Director, Faculty Governance and Curriculum Services (the “Faculty”)

Faculty of Arts and Science – preliminary hearing in writing to determine whether deadline for filing academic appeal could be extended by more than 28 years - former student appealed decision made in 1991 by the Faculty’s Committee on Standing – power blackout interrupted final exam and prevented student from handing in final essay – student was unable to attend rescheduled exam date or submit final paper, which he destroyed –– Faculty refused to grant extension to submit course work, but permitted special examination for later date – student wrote special exam and received final grade of D- in the course - no sufficient record on which Academic Appeals Committee could decide present appeal due to passage of time and Faculty’s reasonable document retention protocol – no information in available materials on reasoning supporting decision of Faculty’s Committee on Standing – no information about how former student’s position compared to that of other students affected by blackout – such information highly relevant to assessment of reasonableness of Faculty’s decision – former student offered no explanation for waiting more than 28 years to appeal from Faculty’s decision – student showed no exceptional circumstances justifying lengthy extension of 90-day appeal deadline - appeal dismissed

The former Student in this case sought to appeal a decision of the Committee on Standing of the Faculty of Arts and Science (the “Faculty”) made on April 24, 1991. Although there was no record of the Student having pursued the next level of appeal (to the Faculty’s Appeal Board) at the time, the Committee decided to deal with the matter as if there had been an unsuccessful appeal to the Appeals Board. The former Student and the Faculty agreed to have the issue of the timeliness of the appeal decided by the Senior Chair of the Committee on the basis of written submissions.

The former Student had been enrolled in the course in question in the Winter 1990 session. The former Student stated in his original petition to his college registrar, dated June 27, 1990, that a power blackout had occurred during the final examination. The examination was rescheduled, but the Student was unable to attend on the rescheduled date and did not write the examination or hand in the final essay. The Faculty’s Committee on Standing ruled that the Student would not be granted any extension to submit course work, but that he would be permitted to write a special examination on a later date. The Student also stated that he destroyed his final paper for the course and regretted doing so. The Student wrote the special examination and received a final grade of D- on the course. The remedies sought by the Student included that he be awarded a final grade of 100% on his final (destroyed) paper for the course.

The Committee determined that there were two reasons, each sufficient on its own, to refuse to hear an appeal from a decision made more than 28 years ago. First, the Committee stated that it agreed with the Faculty that there was no sufficient record on which the Committee could properly decide the appeal, owing to the passage of time and to the Faculty’s reasonable retention protocol (whereby records of received petitions are destroyed five years after the date of the petition decision). The Committee noted that the materials available to it did not include any information about the position the Faculty took or the reasons supporting its decision. In particular, no information was available about how the Student’s position compared to that of other students who were affected by the blackout, which the Committee noted would be highly relevant to its assessment of the reasonableness of the decision. Secondly, the Student offered no explanation whatsoever as to why he waited 28 years to appeal from the Faculty’s decision. The Committee was satisfied that the Student had not shown any exceptional circumstances to justify a lengthy extension from the 90-day deadline for an appeal specified in the Committee’s Terms of Reference.

The Committee accordingly dismissed the appeal.