A professor’s application for judicial review of university’s decision to waive academic requirements for a disabled student was denied on the ground that the professor did not have public or private interest in the matter

27. September 2011 0

Administrataive law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – University Committees – Universities – Students – Duty to accommodate – Assessment of grades – review – Parties – Standing – Jurisdiction

Lukacs v. Doering, 2011 MBQB 203, [2011] M.J. No. 264, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, August 25, 2011, D.J. McCawley J.

The University of Manitoba (the “university”) made certain accommodations, pursuant to its disability policies, to allow a disabled student to complete his doctorate in Mathematics. The Professor brought an application for judicial review of the university’s decision to waive certain academic requirements for a disabled PhD student. The Professor argued that the extent of the accommodations undermined the academic integrity and standards of the program and the university as a whole. He sought various orders including an order that the student had not fulfilled the requirements of a PhD Degree in Mathematics. The respondents brought a motion for an order that the application be struck on the grounds that the Professor lacked standing.

In or around March 2009, the student failed his second Candidacy Examination in the PhD Program of Mathematics and subsequently was required to withdraw from the program pursuant to the applicable university policies and regulations. In June 2009, the student appealed the decision to the Dean on the ground that he suffered from a disability. The Dean reinstated the student without requiring the student to sit another examination. In August 2009, the Mathematics Graduate Studies Committee (the “committee”) made a joint recommendation to the Dean with respect to the accommodations that might be afforded to the student. The Dean did not accept the recommendation and instead proposed an alternative accommodation which was ultimately accepted by the committee. Then, in August 2010, it came to light that the student was short a doctoral course. The committee proposed a solution to the problem but the Dean, within his jurisdiction, implemented an alternative solution despite the committee having rejected the proposal. The Professor took exception to the Dean’s decision and he turned to the Courts once the Senate Committee on Appeal declined to hear his appeal.

After a review of the relevant case law, the Court found that the Professor did not have any direct, legitimate personal or private interest that would grant him private interest standing. The Professor for example, did not teach the student, was only laterally a member of the committee, did not himself hold a degree from the university and did not represent anyone in the university aside from himself in any official capacity. Similarly, the Court found that the Professor lacked public standing. The Professor failed to raise any issues regarding the invalidity of the university’s governing legislation. Due to the Professor’s failure to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court, the Professor’s application was struck.

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