Senadheera v. Ryerson University  O.H.R.T.D. No. 1144
Sidath Senadheera was a PHD candidate in physics at Ryerson University from May 2008 to November 2009 when he was expulsed on the basis of misrepresentation: he had failed to indicate on his application to Ryerson, and on his CV, that he had previously taken several terms of courses at the University of Waterloo.The applicant did not dispute that he had misrepresented himself, but claimed that his thesis supervisor had conspired with the administration to get rid of him because of his disability (bipolar) which he had allegedly failed to accommodate over the 2008-2009 academic year. Mr Senadheera was also an employee (TA) in the fall of 2008, but not in 2009.The Supervisor (Dr. Venkatakrishnan) became concerned about Mr. Senadheera when, after a period of good performance, the student began to behave erratically in April 2009. Following a physical altercation with a fellow student (which resulted in the applicant being placed in a separate lab on a separate floor) the applicant began sending disturbing emails to his supervisor. Here is an extract from one of those letters:
I never saw a abnormally smart student/researcher with a normal personality of a regular Joe. Most of them are good at hiding their true eccentric personality. Here are few examples: At Waterloo one brilliant world famous math Professor tried to kill his wife and was put on house arrest. And another very good Ph.D. student set fire to the world's biggest Math dept. One of the smartest people in the world (was at Caltech in 1930's as the Physics dept head and as Einstein's boss) J. Robert Oppenheimer tried to poison another physicist and he was kicked out from the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge by Rutherford. He was then forced to go for counseling for an illness called Schizophrenia.
Concerned, Dr. Venkatakrishnan contacted the Assessment for Behaviour Risk Team which referred the applicant to a physician Dr. Rose and a psychiatrist Dr. Chopra. As a result, Dr. Venkatakrishnan learned that his student had a bipolar affective disorder. While no accommodations were recommended by the doctors or requested by the student, Dr. Venkatarishnan granted the applicant a one week vacation. He took several weeks off, travelling in South America. On September 10 2009, the supervisor presented his student with a negative progress report pertaining to academic standards that he was not achieving as well as behavioral issues which were not improving (more disturbing emails). Five days later, the student attempted to present his supervisor with a doctor’s note requesting flexibility in scheduling. The supervisor did not accept the note; rather he asked the student to bring it to disability services in order to protect the student’s confidentiality. Around this time, the University became aware that Senadheera had failed to comply with admissions regulations concerning the disclosure of former university transcripts. Senadheera felt that his supervisor was conspiring with administration to get rid of him, and sent Dr. Venkatakrishan an email threatening to blow up his lab. Police were called in; he was given a peace bond to stay away from his supervisor and was banned from Ryerson.
He claims that his expulsion from Ryerson was an act of discrimination on the basis of disability and that his supervisor failed to accommodate him to the point of undue hardship.
- Did the applicant’s expulsion from Ryerson amount to discrimination?
- Did Ryerson discriminate against the applicant in employment?
- Did Ryerson fail to accommodate the applicant in education?
- The Tribunal determined that the applicant’s expulsion from the university had nothing to do with his disability. He was expulsed because he had misrepresented himself.
- The Tribunal determined that in 2009, the applicant was not working as a TA. Therefore the University did not discriminate against him in employment; he was not employed.
- The Tribunal determined that although the applicant had Bipolar Affective Disorder, both of his doctors denied that he was in the middle of a major mood disturbance from May to October 2009, when the troubles began or that he required any academic accommodation. They recommended to the applicant a change in medicine, psychotherapy and an attempt to improve his communication with his supervisor. He refused all three solutions The only formal notification for a required accommodation came in September, one month before he was expelled. The Tribunal ruled that the accommodation, a requirement for flexibility in scheduling, was mute; the lab was open to students 24 hours a day; no schedule could be more flexible. Finally, the Tribunal determined that what he really wanted was for the university to tolerate his erratic and threatening behavior: “Essentially, the applicant asserts that the respondent failed to accommodate his disability because it failed to tolerate his erratic behavior, his inappropriate (and threatening) emails and the lack of progress he was making on his agreed to thesis subject”. As the applicant failed to prove that this behavior and this lack of progress was related to his disability, and as he had failed to take any measures to seek accommodation before September 2009, and as dismissal for misrepresentation has nothing to do with the failure to accommodate disability-related matters, he has failed to demonstrate a failure to accommodate amounting to discrimination.