A BC court recently upheld a university’s decision to impose discipline for plagiarism on a blind law student. After submitting a term paper, the law student was informed by the law school’s Associate Dean of the allegation of plagiarism. The university sent the student a letter informing her that the matter would be considered by the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Discipline.
The student was invited to appear before the President’s Advisory Committee and was informed that she was entitled to representation by legal counsel at that hearing. The student appeared unrepresented and admitted to plagiarizing the paper. She asserted that her disability and other health problems had contributed to her misconduct.
The President of the University sent the student a report stating that she would be suspended from the university for four months and would receive a zero mark for the course in question. The law student’s appeal to the Senate Standing Committee on Student Appeals on Academic Discipline was dismissed. She applied for judicial review primarily on the basis that she was denied procedural fairness because the university failed to accommodate her disabilities by having the President’s Advisory Committee proceed without the student having the benefit of legal counsel or an advocate trained to deal with blind persons.
The law student’s application for judicial review was dismissed. The court found that the Committee had provided the student with notice of the hearing, notice of the allegation against her, an opportunity to respond to the allegation and to be represented by any person, including legal counsel at the hearing. She was also provided written reasons for the Committee’s decision and an opportunity to appeal that decision. On this basis the court concluded that the President’s Committee did not fail to act in a procedurally fair manner by proceeding with the hearing when the student choose to appear without representation.