U of M prof loses round in PhD fight

He has no standing in matter, judge says


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A University of Manitoba math professor's bid to sue the institution over a controversial PhD awarded to a student last year doesn't add up, a Winnipeg judge has ruled.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/08/2011 (4295 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A University of Manitoba math professor’s bid to sue the institution over a controversial PhD awarded to a student last year doesn’t add up, a Winnipeg judge has ruled.

In a written decision released Thursday, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Deborah McCawley said Gábor Lukács was not in a position to involve the court as a way of ending a dispute he’s had with the U of M since fall 2009.

“… I find Dr. Lukács lacks both public- and private-interest standing in these proceedings and, accordingly, his application is struck,” the decision read.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Prof. Gábor Lukács (above) says ruling 'very bad news for higher education and academics in Canada.'

Lukács had filed an application in court nearly a year ago challenging the U of M’s right to award a PhD to a student in the mathematics program who didn’t meet all the requirements. The student had failed a comprehensive exam twice.

The student was ultimately awarded the doctorate after claiming to suffer extreme examination anxiety.

The U of M has maintained it was legally required to accommodate the PhD student’s recognized disability.

The university argued Lukács was not directly affected by the university’s decision to award the PhD in math and thus had no right to sue the university.

He did not teach the student involved and was not a member of the math department committee that handled the student’s appeal, according to the U of M.

McCawley agreed with that stance.

“(Lukács’) interest, as he himself acknowledges, is one of ‘conscience’ which, as counsel for (dean of graduate studies Jay Doering and the U of M) observed, does not in itself necessarily ground a legal proceeding,” she wrote.

In an email to the Free Press Thursday night, Lukács said he was “profoundly disappointed by the decision.

“It saddens me that something so important was decided based on a technicality (‘standing’) instead of on its merits.

“While the court found that professors cannot challenge the academic decisions of their universities, the court never said that the decisions made by the University of Manitoba in the present case were correct.

“This is very bad news for higher education and academics in Canada.”

Lukács, who was represented by Robert Tapper, one of the city’s top litigators, said he will review the decision and is “weighing my options.”

The U of M suspended Lukács for three months without pay last fall for allegedly disclosing the student’s private health information.

Lukács filed a grievance with the Manitoba Labour Board and a hearing began in June. It is set to resume in September when Lukács is expected to testify.


Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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