Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Letter of the day: Disabled by exam stress

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The Winnipeg Free Press recently printed a story regarding a student of the University of Manitoba in a way that seriously and needlessly impugned the student's character and ability (Court battle over PhD, Oct. 30). It is important to set the record straight, but in doing so, the university is highly limited by privacy laws, which restrict what it can disclose.

Throughout this case, the university's goals have been threefold: to ensure all parties, including the university, comply with legal requirements; to protect the student's privacy; and to maintain the academic integrity of our programs.

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The university is bound by its human rights code and required by law to offer reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. In order to comply with these regulations, the university employs professional staff who assess disabilities and make recommendations, and bases its actions on these recommendations.

Extreme exam stress can be such a disability, as defined by the medical profession and the law. Professional staff assess all such claims, and they are careful: Only a small number of claims of this anxiety are accepted, and only after a professional diagnosis. Ignoring the advice of professionally trained staff would be irresponsible and unlawful.

Discussion around university policy is encouraged. At the same time, students expect their universities to protect their private information, and the university is acting to fulfil these expectations.

The university is also ensuring its high academic standards are maintained. In the case of PhD students, a number of factors come into play in assessing their qualifications. The ultimate test for any PhD is the completion of research, the writing of a thesis based on this research, which is examined by a committee of experts in the field, and then defending it before this examining body. Only then is final approval given for graduation.

Universities across the globe have adopted the policy of including experts from other universities in these bodies in order to ensure international standards are met. This policy is followed at the U of M. Our standard of excellence is not compromised. No student attains a degree they have not earned.

 

John Danakas

University of Manitoba

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 4, 2010 A11

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