DATE: October 2, 2019
PARTIES: F.K. (the “Student”) v. School of Graduate Studies
HEARING DATE: N/A (written submissions only)
Professor Hamish Stewart
Parties did not attend (written submissions only)
The Student appealed a decision of the Graduate Academic Appeals Board (“GAAB”). The Student was successful before the GAAB but sought additional remedies from the Academic Appeals Committee (“AAC”). The Senior Chair of the AAC asked for written submissions as to whether the AAC had jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
The Student was enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the University’s Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education and had completed all requirements to achieve Ph.D. candidacy except the comprehensive examination. The Student failed the comprehensive examination, and her registration was terminated. The Student appealed to the GAAB, which found that the Student had been inadequately supervised during the process of preparing for the examination, and that this lack of supervision could have contributed to the failure. As a remedy, the GAAB ordered that the Department provide her with an opportunity to take the examination again, with adequate supervision. The GAAB rejected all of the Student’s other arguments. On appeal to the AAC, the Student sought general damages of $500,000; guaranteed transfer to another department; and full funding for at least two years to complete her Ph.D.
The Senior Chair first noted that the GAAB had granted a remedy in relation to the Student’s allegations of inadequate supervision and as the successful party on that point, the Student could not appeal from that decision to the AAC. The Senior Chair further noted that the two cases cited by the Student in support of her position (Lam v. University of Western Ontario, 2019 ONCA 82; and Stuart v. University of Western Ontario, 2017 ONSC 6980) were not relevant to the issues at hand. Both cases concerned the appropriateness of the Superior Court of Justice hearing a student’s action against a university; the Senior Chair stated that neither case had any bearing on the jurisdiction of an internal university tribunal such as the GAAB or the AAC. The Senior Chair noted that section 2.1 of the AAC’s Terms of Reference provides that the AAC shall hear and consider appeals by students against decisions of faculty, college or school councils (or committees thereof) in the application of academic regulations and requirements. The Senior Chair stated that the issues heard, and the remedies granted by the AAC must relate to decisions concerning the “application of academic regulations and requirements” to students who are (or were) enrolled at the University; they do not extend to admissions decisions or to providing financial compensation. The AAC does not have the power to direct a University division to admit a student or the power to order the University to pay damages or to provide any particular level of funding to a student. The Senior Chair referred to the AAC’s Report 359-1, in which two students sought damages and other financial remedies. The Chair in that case wrote that the AAC’s jurisdiction does not extend to remedying all the consequences, whatever they may be, of a decision that the AAC does have jurisdiction to review. The Chair held that these words were equally applicable to the Student’s appeal.
The Student’s appeal was quashed for want of jurisdiction.