Report #338

DATE: January 12, 2010
PARTIES: Mr. H. W. K. (the Student) v. UTSC

Hearing Date(s): October 29, 2009

Committee Members:
Tad Brown, Chair
Adam Heller
Professor Doug McDougall
Professor Elizabeth Smyth
Dr. Sarita Verma


For the Student Appellant:

H.W.K. (the Student)
Jordan Giurlanda, DLS for the Student

For the University of Toronto at Scarborough:
Vice-Dean Professor John Scherk

UTSC – late withdrawal without academic penalty – three courses – medical grounds – compassionate grounds – Aegrotat standing – psychological illness – academic probation – depression – death of friend – family health problems – awareness of illness before drop date – extraordinary remedy of late withdrawal without academic penalty – diagnosis after drop date – nine month period between initial diagnosis and drop date – lack of evidence – lack of evidence of impact of mental health – motive of the Student – gain entry into a Specialist program – irrelevancy of motive – delay in University’s submissions of materials – no meaningful explanation of delay – appeal dismissed

Appeal of a decision to dismiss an appeal by the Student for late withdrawal without academic penalty for three courses. The Student appealed on medical and compassionate grounds. The Student sought a remedy that would allow him to be granted late withdrawal without academic penalty or, in alternative, aegrotat standing in the courses. The Student had previously petitioned the Registrar for late withdrawal for the courses in question citing psychological illness. The Student provided a medical certificate from his doctor stating the Student was suffering from depression-major affective disorder. The initial petition was denied with the registrar stating that, since the Student had been aware of his illness for nine months and because he was on academic probation, he should have assessed his situation carefully and withdrawn from the courses by the appropriate deadline. The Subcommittee on Academic Appeals of UTSC denied the Student’s subsequent appeal noting the Student did not provide evidence that showed how adverse personal conditions had caused the crisis that led to the Student needing late withdrawals. The Subcommittee noted the Student had been diagnosed with depression for nine months before the withdrawal period but had not been treated medically or seen a specialist. The Subcommittee then urged the Student to consult with a doctor and an Academic Advisor further. Before the Academic Appeals Committee, the Student provided additional evidence that was not presented to the Subcommittee. The Student provided additional supporting documents in the form of an affidavit and a medical note to substantiate his claims that the death of a close friend occurred and that the Student’s father had heart problems. The Committee accepted these events took place. The Committee commended the Student’s efforts in implementing the Subcommittee’s suggestions in seeking medical and academic support. The Committee agreed, though, with the Subcommittee that the Student was aware of his depression nine months before the drop date for the Courses which provided the Student with enough time to have their situation assessed. The Student confirmed that he did not seek any academic counselling during this period of time. The Committee recognized that petitions for late withdrawal from a course without academic penalty are not granted lightly, characterizing the remedy as extraordinary and reserved for unusual and unique situations. The Committee found there was not enough evidence to justify a late withdrawal. The Committee found that the Student’s mental health issues of bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit-disorder-adult type and social phobia were not made until June 2008, one year after the examination period for the courses in question. The Committee unanimously agreed that there was insufficient evidence of the Student’s mental condition and the impact of the Student’s mental health on his ability to write the examinations and seek academic counselling or withdraw by the required drop date. The Committee concluded that the case was not one that justified the extraordinary remedy of a late withdrawal. The Committee commented on two additional matters that were irrelevant to the outcome of the appeal. The Subcommittee’s decision stated that students looking to remove poor marks from their transcripts to gain entry into a specialist program are viewed unsympathetically by the University. The Committee strongly endorsed the view that there is nothing improper about a student trying to improve their academic record. The Committee held instead that there must be actual circumstance and evidence which supports and justifies a change to an academic record in each case beyond the motivation for entry into a particular program. Second, the Committee noted the Student filed their Statement of Appeal on July 8, 2008. The UTSC filed submissions on March 13, 2009 with no meaningful explanation for the delay of over eight months. The Committee was of the view that the University should implement formal guidelines and set out specific deadlines for filing documents required in academic appeals to prevent future delays. Appeal dismissed.