Please enable javascript to view this page in its intended format.

Queen's University
 

Hsieh v York University

Facts

Hsieh was a social work student expelled from the program due to poor performance. She alleged discrimination in the provision of services on the basis of creed and disability (differential treatment resulting in lower grades).  The applicant’s allegations of religious discrimination are linked to her views on gay marriage and her inability to work with trans-gendered persons. The two creed-based allegations are as follows:

1) Her mark in AK-SOWK 4020 Issues in the Study of the Welfare State: Power Organization and Bureaucracy

In this class, students were assigned group work projects. Rather than discuss the topic assigned to her group, the applicant insisted that they debate the question of gay marriage. The other students complained to their teacher, Mr. Martin, because they wanted to concentrate on the assignment material and they found her remarks to be homophobic. To resolve the problem, the instructor changed the marking scheme, awarding an individual mark to each student. The applicant claimed that “the decision to mark a group assignment on an individual basis impacted her final grade for the course and that this was done because her classmates and Mr. Martin disagreed with her wanting to ask questions about gay marriage. This is a violation of her charter rights to religious freedom and freedom of speech”.   The case resolution conference determined that the instructor had acted appropriately

There is no evidence the applicant was subjected to differential treatment because of her religious belief. I accept Mr Martin’s evidence that the decision to mark this assignment on an individual basis did not affect her final result for the course. I find that the decision to alter the grading scheme for the group assignment was motivated by a good faith attempt on his part to create an environment for the other members of the group to get on with the work at hand. (37

2) The Comments of the Undergraduate Program Director

The applicant claims that in a meeting to discuss her unfair grade in another class, the Undergraduate Program Director called her a homophobe, expressed disapproval of her opinions about trans-gendered people and advised her to leave the program.  She then refused to order the professor to allow the applicant to rewrite a paper. This, she thought, was discrimination based on creed. 

The Director insisted that while she did not call the applicant a homophobe, she had mentioned that other students had concerns about some of her comments which they considered to be homophobic. She stated that she did not have the authority to order any instructor to allow a student to re-write a paper/test and that she had advised the student what channels to take if she wished to pursue that option. Hsieh v York University (No. 1) (2009), CHRR Doc. 09-0834, 2009 HRTO 606

Question

  1. Did the professor discriminate against the student?
  2. Did the administrator discriminate against the student?

Answer

  1. No
  2. No

Reason

1)   The case resolution conference determined that the instructor had acted appropriately. There is no evidence the applicant was subjected to differential treatment because of her religious belief. I accept Mr Martin’s evidence that the decision to mark this assignment on an individual basis did not affect her final result for the course. I find that the decision to alter the grading scheme for the group assignment was motivated by a good faith attempt on his part to create an environment for the other members of the group to get on with the work at hand. (37

2)  The Tribunal accepted the Director’s evidence. “I accept Ms. Rossiter’s explanation that she was concerned the applicant was having trouble with the course content, most importantly the ability to critically self-reflect on her own biases and values. She did raise the possibility of other academic pursuits. There is no evidence of discrimination on the basis of creed disclosed by these facts.

Both applications were dismissed as were all applications on the basis of disability; she suffered a brain injury in 1995 and has a hearing impairment. She did not provide documentation or even reveal her disability to her instructors until AFTER the courses were finished.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000