Mr. Ausama Mohamed was a high achieving Arts and Sciences undergraduate who transferred from the University of Regina to the University of Saskatchewan for his third year of studies. His career goal was to become a dentist. Believing he had all the necessary prerequisites, Mr Mohamed began applying to various dentistry schools while taking what he considered to be “easy” courses at the University. These courses included three geography classes, a geology class and a health sciences class. Soon after sending out his applications to dentistry school, the student began receiving rejection notices from various dentistry schools which informed him that he did not, in fact, have all the prerequisite science courses. These letters arrived in the weeks before his final exams. Anxious and depressed, he made a series of bad choices:
On May 10, 2004, Mr. Mohamed received a letter from the University notifying him that his three geography professors were charging him with academic dishonesty. This was followed, four days later, with another letter notifying him that his health sciences professor was also filing charges against him.
The student wrote a memo addressed to the hearing committee denying all charged and expressing anger, hurt and indignation. At the hearing on June 23, when faced with evidence concerning the Halifax detour alibi, Mr. Mohamed admitted that his requests for deferral of his three geography exams were falsified. He claimed that his dishonest requests for referral arose from a mental disability; he had been very stressed about the rejection letters from dentistry schools. The committee found that on a balance of probabilities, the student had cheated on the exam, even though he strongly denied having committed this offense. Due to insufficient evidence, he was not found responsible for academic dishonesty in the health sciences class.
In the end, the committee found that Mr. Mohammed had violated three rules of academic integrity:
Providing false or misleading information with the intent to avoid or delay writing an examination or fulfilling any other academic requirement
Seeking to acquire or acquiring prior knowledge of the contents of any examination question or paper with the intention of gaining an unfair advantage
Possessing or using notes or other sources of information or devices in an examination not permitted by the course instructors
His penalty for the infractions under 12 (m), he was suspended for four years and given 0 in each of the geography classes. For the infractions under 12 (j) and (k), he was expelled from University. The committee stated, in its reasons, that it had not considered the student’s report of “severe stress” as a mitigating factor because he could have sought accommodation through legitimate routes: “seeking extensions from the instructor, deferred examinations, appeals on medical or compassionate grounds” (para 21)
In an Appeals hearing in September 2004, Mr. Mohamed brought a psychiatrist who stated that the student had been suffering from depression at the time he committed offences of academic dishonesty. The appeal committee upheld the decision of the hearing committee, reiterated the penalty and recommended that the student seek counselling to come to terms with what he had done and the consequences of his misconduct. It did not offer reasons, nor did it refer to the evidence of the psychiatrist.
Mr. Mohammed appealed this decision to the University visitor, who chose to have the Courts deal with the issue. The student argued that the appeals committee should have provided reasons in its ruling. And that the university should have considered the student’s depression as a mitigating factor in its decisions?
I. the time that it would take to assess the psychiatric evidence would interfere with what is supposed to be an expeditious process
II. Committee members are not trained to analyse expert evidence
III. The quality of psychiatric evidence depends on the credibility of the subject
IV. Most students do not have the means to access expert evidence.
The implication here is that had Mr. Mohamed admitted his mistake, cooperated with the committee, accepted responsibility for his misconduct, they may have taken his mental disability into consideration