Friday, January 10, 2014

On That Accomodation Thing Up At York U

I find myself in the minority on this one, thinking that the University should have accomodated student X, even if the accomodation was to placate his religuously induced discomfort with women.

An interesting bit of news came out this morning:

[Rhonda Lenton, Provost for York U] told host Matt Galloway the student's request for accommodation was supported because the class was billed as an online course and no interactions with other students would be required.

"The course had been advertised as an online course and the student had signed up for the course on the understanding that he would not be required to attend on campus," said Lenton. "If it had been an in-class on-campus course, the likely response here would have been that an accommodation would not have been provided."

I think much of my sympathy for student X stems from my own fairly recent experiences with on-line courses.  They're kind of a rip-off, and really the only advantage to them is the fact that you don't have to be at a particular place at a particular time to complete the work and get your credits. And it is that feature, generally speaking, that you are paying for when you enroll in one.

Now, the reason you don't want to be at a particular place at a particular time...should that be relevant? long as the course you sign up for states up front that you won't have to be?

I don't think so.  Since we know that the course syllabus said your physical presence was not required, and we know another student was granted an exemption from the same project, this project was obviously considered non-core material.  In a sense, student x was punished by his professor for his religuous beliefs...made to do work he wouldn't otherwise have had to if he hadn't invoked his religion as a means of getting out of it.  If he had begged off because he was going to be elsewhere at the time...snowboarding in the Alps, perhaps...there wouldn't have been a problem.


MgS said...

Okay ... it was an online course with a group assignment component.

Why on earth should a student be exempted from the group assignment because of their "religious convictions"?

Accommodation is provided when the demand is reasonable. How is it reasonable that the student demand that they be exempted from interacting with other students because of their gender?

Frankly, the demand is as insane as some of the religious home-schooling curriculums out there that deny science based on "religious objections".

bigcitylib said...

It was apparently advertised as an on-line course, no "group assignment component".

Anonymous said...

I'm with BCL on this
An alternative assignment for those unable to attend exists and carries the same weight. As some people had been allowed to do this alternative assignment because they couldn't attend then the Instructor should have assigned that assignment to this student.
His attempts to force someone to do something when accommodation was available for others smacks of discrimination.

MgS said...

I've seen plenty of online courses that have group collaboration projects. (as much as I loathe the those assignments)

The bits I've seen on this story don't suggest that "accommodation for others" is an issue.

Terrence said...

I like your take on this.

My partner is a prof and she came to a similar resolution.

Meanwhile, I've been waiting for conservatives to build this story into their "the Muslims are taking over!!1" eschatology.

Dave said...

If the course was advertised as an "online program" and the group assignment was not included in the posted course outline, the group assignment is simply not required to achieve the credit. If it is, the university's Quality Management System has failed.

I don't even have to touch the "religion" aspect of this.

If student X had stated that he needed an exemption because of a judicial probation order which prohibited him being within 30 meters of any female under the age of majority I'd make book that the professor would not have hesitated to accommodate that request.

So, as harebell points out, since another student had been granted an exemption, regardless of the reason, this is easily read as discrimination.

Loraine Lamontagne said...

If there was no mention of a one-time in-person session, then I will have to agree with you. That said, having followed a number of these online courses, I have never come across an online class that did not include a one-time attendance. I am grateful for the link you provide but Ms. Benton did not clarify that there was no group assignment component. So I will have to sign this skeptical

Loraine Lamontagne said...

To clarify - all online classes to my knowledge include an obligation to write the exam in person, and if you are not from the province, or travelling poses a difficulty, arrangements can be made so that the exam can be written closer to your home.

bigcitylib said...


The showing up to write an exam someplace rule applies to my own experience. I am assuming that it is universal, and so wouldn't be at issue here. Student X wasn't trying to get out of exam.