McMaster University Faces Discrimination Claim From PhD Student

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hamilton, Ontario – July 16, 2013

On Friday, July 19 2013 the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario will begin hearing the disability discrimination claim brought against McMaster University by former PhD student, Jason Tang.

Mr. Tang is an accomplished scholar who has published over 20 articles in peer-reviewed journals. In 2008, just a few months before he was to complete the comprehensive exam requirement of his degree, Mr. Tang suffered a brain injury resulting in post-concussion syndrome (PCS). He had completed most of the required components of McMaster’s Medical Sciences PhD program, but the after-effects of PCS required accommodations of his disability in order to successfully complete the exam.

Mr. Tang says that he asked for clarification of the essential requirements for the exam for more than eight months in order to explore possible accommodations. He says Professor Cathy Hayward, McMaster’s Associate Dean of Graduate Studies (Health Sciences), eventually told him that he had to complete the exam in the same format that had been designed for all PhD students in his department. He claims that he was offered extra time to complete the exam along with other forms of support for writing. However, Mr. Tang had previously indicated that extra time was not an appropriate accommodation because of the nature of his disability. Mr. Tang then attempted to complete the exam. He claims that without appropriate accommodations he was unable to complete the exam and was ultimately forced to leave his PhD studies.

“I am very disappointed.  I only wanted the chance to demonstrate that I possess the competencies required for the PhD degree in a manner that accommodated my disability,” said Mr. Tang.

“It will be up to the Tribunal to decide if McMaster discriminated against Mr. Tang. This is an important case because it will address some of the unique questions that arise for students with disabilities at a graduate level. Our hope is that a decision will provide some future guidance to all universities and students,” said Laurie Letheren , of ARCH Disability Law Centre.


Laurie Letheren 416 482 8255 x 232 

Kerri Joffe 416 482 8255 x 222