Last Wednesday, Professor Dyer-Witheford, Associate Dean of the faculty of information and media studies, announced the termination of a half-credit upper year class in the faculty, as the course’s instructor will be on medical leave for the rest of the semester.
“Everyone had drawn faces—I think everyone was in a little bit of shock,” Taylor Pearce, a fourth-year student in the class, said.
After Dyer-Witheford made an in-person announcement to the class, he sent them an email further explaining the decision.
“Because of the very specific and specialized nature of the course, there are no FIMS faculty who can take it over. I am therefore, with the agreement of the dean of FIMS and the vice-provost academic, cancelling the course,” he stated in the email.
On September 27, the course’s instructor informed his students he’d be leaving the country to deal with a personal crisis. Initially, he conducted lectures remotely, but this task became unmanageable due to his circumstances.
“It’s a stressing situation,” he explained. “The instructor’s well-being was in jeopardy. Had it been another course, we would have found a replacement.”
“It wouldn’t have been the same course if someone else was teaching it—it’s not even just the material, it’s the way it’s taught,” Pearce added.
While the circumstances were uncontrollable, the situation was consequential to fourth-year students in the class. With most of them graduating this year, the students required a grade.
After careful consideration by a number of administration members, they felt students could not be fairly evaluated based on their work in the course, as only a quarter of assignments had been completed.
“To ensure that you are not academically penalized by this cancellation, all students currently registered in the course will receive a course mark of 85 (A), or, if you notify me that you so prefer, a Pass,” the email continued.
By judging the course work already submitted, and considering the A average students achieved in the course’s past sections, 85 was the fairest grade, according to Dyer-Witheford.
As far as the university’s senior administration knows, there have been no recent cases in which a class was terminated. “I’m aware of a couple of cases where a professor was unable to finish a course, but others were able to step in to take the course through to completion,” John Doerksen, vice-provost of academic programs and students, explained.
He also noted no general policy exists that would determine protocol in a case like this, as it’s an extremely rare circumstance.
“It’s such a strange situation, but really none of us were taking the course to begin with for the mark, so that’s kind of the sad part of the situation,” Pearce said.
Without the guidance of a structured policy, FIMS and university administration had to reach a decision based on the particular circumstances of the situation they faced.
“No one is going to be happy—it’s really sad to have to cancel [the course],” he noted. “The only thing sadder would be if students would have to suffer as a result.”