The financial burden of post-secondary education and the demands of a rigorous program of study came to a crossroads for one student last year.
Forced to take on a job, as well as full-time courses in the graduate department of civil engineering, the student failed two classes and was terminated from his program. In August, the academic appeals committee, the University of Toronto’s highest board of appeal, rejected the student’s request to be readmitted to his program
Chris Ramsaroop, a part-time student and member of Governing Council, said he was “outraged” by the committee’s decision. “Here is a human face of the impact that tuition increases have had on accessibility,” said Ramsaroop.
On Monday, at a meeting of the academic board (one of the boards reporting to Governing Council) a minority report was issued alongside the report of the academic appeals committee on the case.
Paul Holmes, the university’s judicial affairs officer, explained that the issuing of minority reports is very rare. “This is, as far as I know, the first time in a very long time that something like this [the minority report] has happened with this particular committee.”
The minority report states that the writers felt it necessary to express a “dissenting opinion based on compassionate grounds.” The student, who cannot be named in any of the public reports, was working a night watchman’s job as well as taking additional courses at an adult learning centre. He could not reduce his course load for fear of losing his OSAP eligibility. The minority opinion suggests, “had universal assured graduate student funding been in place, which is the goal of the university, we believe this situation would have been avoided.”
The student who issued the appeal also encountered troubles acclimatizing to Canada and U of T. The academic appeals committee report says that the student had difficulties with the library system and textbooks. He also approached his professor for help but the professor declined, pointing to the value of autonomous work.
The majority decision in this case said that although the committee was “extremely sympathetic to the many obstacles encountered by this student,” it “believes that it cannot permit this to be an excuse for failing to meet the standards required by the University of Toronto in a graduate level program.”
The minority report counters that although grades are important, “the financial hardship may have had more to do with the present unfortunate outcome then a true test of the student’s ability.”
Despite the minority opinion on this appeal, the decision holds. The student has lost his spot in the civil engineering program. Several student governors expressed disgust at the decision. “This is a very inhumane way of dealing with the situation,” Ramsaroop said.