A philosophy professor at Queen’s University in Canada has been booted from the logic course she was teaching owing to a dispute between her and the university’s Exams Office over accommodating students who require the use of a computer for taking exams.
It does not seem that associate professor of philosophy Adele Mercier refused to grant the accommodation. Rather, it seems like she might have been, from the point of view of the Exams Office, overly accommodating, though the details are somewhat unclear.
The following is from the Queen’s University Journal:
It all started when Mercier decided to modernize her exam to accommodate two students enrolled in PHIL 260 [Introduction to Logic] requiring a computer to write examinations. Mercier and [her TA Tianze] Chen worked all semester to computerize the students’ exam, using a “cheat proof” software. Students have been using the software throughout the semester to complete homework exercises…
On Oct. 26, Mercier contacted the Exams Office to inform them of the new format for the midterm exam. Problems arose when Mercier learned policies restricted the Exams Office from allowing students with accommodations to use their personal computers to complete exams. To adhere to the policy, the Exams Office required all [non-accommodated] students enrolled in the course to revert to a paper-based exam…
In response, Mercier filed an official complaint, objecting to the imposition of “para-academics” to modify the exam format, citing infringement on academic autonomy and the adverse impact on students who were prepared to write a computerized midterm.
Mercier told the Exams Office despite their advisory, she was going to offer students the option of a paper-based or computerized exam. She maintained students who required the use of their laptops for exams would be allowed to do so in her classroom.
The Exam Office told Mercier this wasn’t an option. They reiterated all non-accommodated students had to write a paper-based exam. As for accommodated students, they gave her two options: let the Exam Office step in, or privately administer the computerized exam meeting all the students’ accommodations. Mercier chose the latter.
“We’d been booking Gordon Hall 400 for those who had accommodations for private rooms or dim lights or things like that, and they could bring their own laptop to Gordon Hall. We arranged our own proctors so that everyone gets to write the exam on the computer,” Chen said.
As students prepared for their exam the following morning, they received an email from Haley Everson, faculty associate director (academic consideration, appeals and advising) cancelling the exam.
Two days later, students received an update, apologizing for the disruption and claiming the faculty was “working with Professor Mercier and the Exams Office to set up exams that meet Queen’s accessibility requirements.” They claimed the decision was made due to a scheduling conflict between the exam time for students with academic accommodations and their other classes.
In her own email to students explaining the cancellation, Mercier told students the “para-academics [are running] the show now, not your professors,” and she was “gravely disturbed by ever increasing infantilization of students, and victimhood-fostering attitudes towards persons with disabilities.”
The administration then replaced Mercier and Chen with another faculty member, Mark Smith, and said that it “will allow students to drop the course after receiving their final grade with a full tuition refund.”
It’s unclear why matters escalated as they did.
The Journal reports that “a student in the class told Mercier they withdrew their accommodations because they ‘felt the alternatives [she] gave were just fine and very fair.'” Another student suggested that “the situation is potentially an infringement on [Mercier’s] academic freedom.”
There’s some more information here.
A few years ago, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered Queen’s University to pay Mercier $20,000 in general damages and $5,000 in punitive damages owing to how it treated her after she raised issues of gender discrimination in her department.