This message is delivered by President David Barnard, University of Manitoba to alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends of the University of Manitoba community.
I am taking this opportunity to speak directly about a matter involving a University of Manitoba doctoral student that is garnering a great deal of public attention. I know many of you have been following developments regarding this case in the media and likely have many questions.
I first want to state my unequivocal support for the student involved in this matter. It is my understanding that this student is an exceptional student who has achieved outstanding success and is fully deserving of the PhD conferred by the University of Manitoba.
Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation about this case has been widely broadcast, most notably in the mass media, and it has all too easily and readily been accepted by some as fact. This rush to rash conclusions and finger-pointing can do serious harm to the reputation of all those involved in the case.
It is incumbent upon all of us to wait for the case to work its way through the process before drawing conclusions; to presume innocence, not guilt; to understand that there are at least two sides to a story, and that if we have heard only one, we have nowhere near enough information to condemn our colleagues or fellow alumni.
Having received permission from the student involved in this matter to release limited information, the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Dean of Science have prepared a statement. I encourage you also to read their message found at http://www.umanitoba.ca www.umanitoba.ca.
I also want to take this opportunity to emphasize that the University of Manitoba encourages informed debate on issues related to academic policy, such as those in the case before us. Where it is possible for the university to improve its policies, and where it is possible for the university to improve its transparency with respect to these policies, so that decisions and actions can be clearly accounted for, we will do so. To this end, the administration and Senate have already commenced discussions relating to the accommodation of students with disabilities, including a review of:
- how to balance the University's legal obligation to offer reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities while protecting academic standards;
- what types of accommodations may be offered, without compromising academic standards;
- who should decide on whether accommodations should be offered, and if so, what type;
- what types of evidence of disability should the decision maker require;
- with whom is the decision-maker expected to consult;
- how to ensure timely decisions on accommodation are made, so that a student's academic progress is not compromised; and,
- how to protect the privacy of students while assessing a case and implementing accommodations.
Discussion of these matters will involve students, faculty, staff and experts in these fields and will take place through the university Senate, our academic governing body, in the spirit of our institutional commitment to continuous improvement. The University of Manitoba will learn from this experience, and it is our intention to do so as a responsible, responsive academic community.
I will provide you with an update when it is possible to do so. However, for now, I plan not to comment further and allow the legal processes to unfold.
Your comments and perspectives are welcome. I have created the following email address and invite you to comment: mailto:email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued commitment to and support of the University of Manitoba.
David T. Barnard, Ph.D., President and Vice-Chancellor
202 Administration Building, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg MB R3T 2N2 Canada
Office: +1-204-474-9345 FAX: +1-204-275-7925 Cell: +1-204-509-0026