By Graham Slaughter
At 52 years old, Dorrel Richards is getting kicked out of university.
Even though Richards is only three courses away from graduating, she was permanently dismissed at the end of the 2010 fall semester.
“Here I am in the later stage of my life. Getting kicked out of school —for what reason?”
The mature student has filed a complaint to Ryerson’s office of discrimination and harassment services after her appeal to continue classes was denied and she was emailed a “Permanent Program Withdrawal.”
Ann Whiteside, Ryerson’s discrimination and harassment prevention Officer, said that a complaint like Richards’s must have jurisdiction before they can move forward.
“97 per cent of these things are solved informally,” said Whiteside. “Someone comes to us with a concern and we help them deal with it on their own.”
Richards’ appeal was denied because she failed PHL444 — “Ethics in Health Services Management” — last winter semester while on academic probation. She said she failed the exam because the Access Centre didn’t grant her the extra time she needed until the semester ended.
Richards suffers from osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that causes a constant, sharp ache in her hands. She applied to receive extra exam time through the Access Centre last February. It wasn’t until May — a month after she failed PHL444 — that the exam extension was approved.
“I know I would’ve passed if I had that half hour,” said Richards.
Stefanie Marinich-Lee, the manager of the Access Centre, told the Eyeopener that many students with disabilities are granted accommodations up front.
During the appeal process, Richards explained the Access Centre’s tardiness to the appeal board. The appeal board suggested she “find a new program.”
However, Richards said she worked in a hospital in her native Jamaica for 17 years and holds a diploma as a medical technologist. “Why isn’t this program for me? No one will tell me,” Richards said.
Richards’s situation has a deadline – the first of the month. Since she isn’t a Ryerson student anymore, she lost her OSAP funding. The single mother, who hasn’t been able to work the past few years because of her osteoarthritis, says that she won’t be able to pay her rent.
“I can’t sleep at night,” said Richards. “Where am I going to get the money to take care of my daughter?” At this point, Richards said her only hope of finishing her degree is if Whiteside can help her snag a temporary probationary contract and win the appeal.
If she graduates, she said she wants to work in a seniors’ home or a hospital.
“I just want to do the courses and move on with my life,” she said.
The appeal process
A student such as Richards who has received a permanent program withdrawal (PPW) has options. They can request a temporary probationary contract, which allows the student to enroll in classes while they wait for an appeal. If the appeal is approved, the student continues classes. If it doesn’t, they get a full refund.
If you have all the facts and have read all the policies and procedures relating to the appeal process, there are five grounds an applicant can claim in an appeal:
Prejudice — any grounds prohibited in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Medical — requires a Ryerson medical certificate or doctor’s note.
Compassionate — any events or circumstances the applicant feels they can’t have predicted.
Course management — if the instructor has deviated too far from the course material.
Procedural error- Any issues with the application of a course policy.
According to the ombudsperson’s office, in a case where someone feels like they’ve been treated unfairly, rules of ‘natural justice’ apply in the decision process. Here are the four rights that every person at Ryerson can claim:
1) )The right to know the case against you;
2) The right to an impartial and unbiased decision maker;
3) The opportunity to be heard;
4)The right to a decision and the rationale for that decision.
More information is available on the ombudsperson’s website: http://www.ryerson.ca/ombuds/
Photo: Lindsay Boeckl