DATE: March 29, 2019
PARTIES: W.H. (the “Student”) v. the Toronto School of Theology (“TST”)
Hearing Date(s): n/a written submissions only
Professor Hamish Stewart, Senior Chair
For the Student Appellant:
Mr. W.H. (the Student)
Mr. Selwyn Pieters, Representative for the Student
For the School Theology:
Mr. Robert A. Centa, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Toronto School of Theology – Student appealed termination of registration in Doctor of Theology Program –– Minutes of Settlement waived Student’s appeal rights - preliminary motion to determine jurisdiction of Academic Appeals Committee to hear appeal – absence of alternate appeal route does not give Academic Appeals Committee jurisdiction to hear appeal - appeal quashed
The Student sought to appeal the termination of his registration in the Doctor of Theology Program (Program). The Chair asked for written submissions from the parties as to whether the Academic Appeals Committee (AAC) had jurisdiction to hear the appeal. This preliminary motion to determine jurisdiction was heard by the Chair only, and by way of written submissions. The parties did not attend.
The Student was enrolled in the Program at the Toronto School of Theology (TST). In December 2016, the Student and TST executed Minutes of Settlement to resolve certain issues arising out of the Student’s performance in the Program and certain prior academic appeals. In the process of negotiating the Minutes of Settlement, both parties were represented by legal counsel. The Minutes of Settlement required the Student to complete his second major comprehensive examination with a minimum grade of A-, otherwise his registration in the Program would be terminated. The Minutes of Settlement further provided that the Student waived any right to appeal any decision to terminate his registration in the Program for any reason. The Student completed his second major comprehensive examination with a grade of B- and his registration in the Program was terminated by TST in accordance with the Minutes of Settlement.
TST submitted that the Minutes of Settlement deprived the AAC of jurisdiction to hear the Student’s appeal. The Student submitted that the AAC must have jurisdiction to hear his appeal because he had effectively exhausted his remedies within TST. The Student also submitted that the Minutes of Settlement were not enforceable because he could not contract out of his appeal rights within the University.
The Chair rejected the Student’s submission on jurisdiction stating that the AAC’s jurisdiction depends on its terms of reference, and is not created by the fact that no other University body has jurisdiction over a dispute between a student and a division of the University. The Chair explained that in the normal course of events, the Student would appeal the TST’s decision to terminate his registration to the Graduate Studies Council Academic Appeal Committee (GSCAAC); if that appeal was dismissed, he could then appeal to the AAC. The Chair further explained that the AAC lacked jurisdiction to hear an appeal directly from a decision made at a lower level than the council of a faculty, college or school. Accordingly, the Chair concluded that while the AAC would have jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a decision of the GSCAAC, it did not have jurisdiction to hear an appeal directly from TST’s decision to terminate the Student’s registration.
In light of the Chair’s conclusion that the AAC had no jurisdiction to hear the Student’s appeal, it was not necessary to decide whether the AAC had jurisdiction to consider the validity of the Minutes of Settlement. Nevertheless, the Chair observed that it would be quite extraordinary for a university appeal body to consider the merits of an agreement that had been negotiated between a student and a division of the university where both parties were legally represented.
The Student’s appeal was quashed.