DATE: August 23, 2017
PARTIES: Mr. C.O. (the “Student”) v. the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering
Hearing Date(s): June 29, 2017
Professor Hamish Stewart, Chair
Professor Jan Mahrt-Smith, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Susan Froom, Student Panel Member
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk and Hearing Secretary, Appeals,
Discipline and Faculty Grievances
For the Student:
Mr. C.O. (the Student)
Ms. Clara Ryu, Law Student, Downtown Legal Services
Ms. Jennifer Fehr, Staff Lawyer, Downtown Legal Services
For the Faculty of Arts and Science/Woodsworth College:
Professor James Davis, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream
Mr. Don MacMillan, Faculty Registrar
Ms. Vanessa Laufer, New Chair of the Academic Appeals Committee (Observer)
Mr. John F. Monahan, New Chair of the Academic Appeals Committee (Observer)
Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering – anxiety disorder and deaths of extended family members attributed to poor performance on exams – conditions existed before course drop date – late withdrawal without academic penalty – reinstatement to program – Student was refused further registration due to poor academic performance – Faculty did not provide adequate reasons for its decision to not allow reinstatement – absence of adequate reasons did not change the outcome of the Student’s petition –consequences of refusal to readmit into the program deprives student of pursuing a minor only available at University not an exceptional circumstance – adequate reasons – appeal dismissed
Request for late withdrawal from four courses without academic penalty. At the end of the first term of the Student’s final year of his program, he finished his final exams with a cumulative GPA was 1.51 and a sessional average was 55%. The Faculty deemed the Student to have failed the term and refused him readmission to the program. The Student appealed a grade in one of his courses, which was dismissed by the AAB. The Student then brought this petition for a late withdrawal without academic penalty from the four courses that he had failed, which was dismissed by the AAB. He appealed this dismissal to the Committee, asking for a late withdrawal without academic penalty from the four courses that he had failed on the basis that he was suffering an anxiety disorder at the time of the exams, as well as grieving the recent deaths of his grandfather and his uncle.
The Student’s anxiety disorder had been diagnosed prior to his final year of the program. The Student had applied for, and received, academic accommodations for his chronic and severe anxiety throughout his time at the University. Prior to the semester at issue, the Student had attended counselling sessions over the summer with the University’s Health and Wellness services. He was registered with Accessibility Services, and had received an accommodation of extra time to write one of his mid-term exams. He did not apply for any other accommodations or bring his difficulties to the attention of the Faculty.
The Student’s grandfather died in the summer preceding the start of the term and his uncle died in the fall of his final year in the program. There was no evidence on the record that the Student sought medical assistance or counselling to help to deal with his sadness following these deaths. All of these mental health issues occurred prior to the Faculty’s “drop date” for the fall term.
The Committee referred to Report #375, Report #264, Report #314, Report #367, and Report #373 which set out that the remedy of late withdrawal without penalty is an extraordinary remedy, reserved for unusual and unique situations. The University sets drop dates and expects its students to decide by that time whether or not they will continue with their studies. Exceptions to this policy are rare, but could include situations where unexpected and unforeseeable circumstances occur after the drop date, where already existing circumstances become unpredictably worse, or where already existing circumstances do not reasonably resolve. In the absence of an exceptional circumstance, the Committee found that the decisions of the CoE and the AAB were fair and reasonable applications of the Faculty’s and the University’s policies.
The Committee found that the fact that the Student was almost complete his program and the consequence of a refusal to readmit on the Student’s ability to pursue a minor program of his choice were irrelevant in assessing the reasonableness of a division’s decision-making (Report #280).
The Committee did find however, that the CoE and the AAB had failed to provide the Student with adequate reasons for their decisions. Relying on Report #367, the Committee found that it is a “basic and uncontroversial principle of procedural fairness that a tribunal that makes decisions affecting the rights and interests of the parties before it should provide the parties with reasons for its decision for the benefit of the parties, the public, and any Tribunal who might review the decision.” The Committee found that the Student is entitled to know why their petition was dismissed, and that decisions should indicate the facts and the principles that led the tribunal to its conclusions even if they are just in a summary form (Report #258 of the Academic Appeals Committee, December 14, 2001). The Committee held that it was clear that the AAB had carefully considered the Student’s petition and had good reasons for dismissing it; but that they should have been outlined in the letter to the Student.