The Petition Process
Petitions in the Faculty of Arts and Science: A Guide for Students: The Petition Process
The Faculty recognizes that sometimes exceptional circumstances necessitate an exception being made to the normal rules and deadlines. The petition is the way students make such a request.
Formally, the process is as follows (see the Calendar for exact deadline dates for the current year). Needless to say, few requests go through all steps.
You submit your petition in writing through your college registrar’s office.
- For Term Work: five (5) working days after the end of the Final Exam Period. (Count does not include December break when University is closed.)
- For Deferred Exams: 5 working days after the end of the Final Exam Period
- For Grading Practices Policy: last day of classes in the course
- For Late Withdrawal: 6 months after the end of the session.
Your First Request is considered on the basis of your written materials by the Petitions Office on behalf of the Committee on Standing, using the guidelines and past practices of the Committee. You receive a written response by email, either Granting the petition or Refusing it. (Be sure to read the full decision, as the details may be as important as the ‘Granted’ or ‘Refused.’) If the petition is granted, the situation is resolved. If the petition is refused and you think your grounds justify the request or you have more information to add, you have the choice of taking it to the next step. Note that it is best that students reveal their true situation in full with the First Request. All petitions are treated in the utmost confidence, and so holding back essential elements of a student's situation may only lead to delays in receiving an appropriate answer to a request.
Response Timeline: Most petitions, especially the straight-forward ones, are dealt with promptly. Some take over a month from the time you submit all the materials, depending on how complicated your case is, and whether departments or instructors need to be consulted for further information. The response will be quicker if your petition articulates your situation clearly, completely, and concisely, and all relevant documentation is attached. The Faculty makes a firm endeavour to deal with a petition within 90 days, provided the student submits the necessary materials in a timely fashion. All responses are sent only to your U of T email address, and you are responsible for checking this email for the response.
The Faculty does not accept petitions after the deadlines, and your college registrar’s office will not normally forward late petitions to the Faculty. If there are justifiable and compelling reasons why you have submitted the petition after the deadline, talk about your situation with your college registrar’s office. “Ignorance” is not an adequate reason (note that this is an institution dedicated to knowledge). If there are legitimate reasons why you are petitioning after the deadline, you must essentially make two petitions: the first regarding the missed deadline, and the second regarding the substance of your request. The petition regarding the lateness will be considered first: only if the reasons for the lateness are acceptable will the second or substantial part of the petition be considered. If the reasons for lateness are not acceptable, the petition will be turned back, regardless of how compelling its circumstances.
All student records are confidential, including your petition and its documentation. The University has a strict policy on this. To quote from the policy, only those staff members who need to may “have access to relevant portions of an official student academic record for purposes related to the performance of their duties.” Petition information is not available to all staff who have access to other parts of the student record such as marks.
The petitions Office may need to consult with instructors or with staff in departmental offices or with College Registrar's Offices to clarify some aspect of a petition before reaching a decision. However, the Committee on Standing does not need to know a student's identity to hear a request, so petitions are assigned case numbers and heard anonymously in committee. The identity of a student is not revealed. With a decision, only the essential decision becomes part of the available student record; decisions such as WDR or "Academic penalty not imposed; permitted by petition to re-register on Academic Probation," etc., may appear, but the details or substance of the petition will not.
If your petition involves something extremely personal that would be troubling to put on paper, you should discuss your confidentiality concerns with your College Registrar. Generally, you are strongly urged to fully disclose all the facts relevant to your petition when you make it in the first instance, however potentially embarrassing or revealing you may think them. It is best to be clear and complete at the outset so the matter can be settled fairly, rather than trying to hold back some things until later when nothing else seems to have worked. That just keeps you from getting the remedy you need in a timely way and frustrates the people trying to help you with a fair remedy to your situation.
For most petitions, you will need documentation that confirms you were unable to do what you were supposed to do on the dates you were supposed to do it, i.e., documentation must indicate incapacity, and give the dates or period affected. Generally speaking, the stronger your documentation, the stronger your case.
Proper documentation is both a formal requirement for a petition and a necessary tool to ascertain the facts. You should not take it personally that the Faculty requires, for example, evidence of a relative’s death. Such documentation simply must accompany a petition request to justify formally an exception being made to the Faculty’s published rules.
If your documentation is for medical circumstances, you must use the U of T Verification of Student Illness and Injury form available here: http://www.illnessverification.utoronto.ca. This is the only form of medical documentation acceptable in the U of T. Note that, by University policy, only five identified groups of practitioners may sign this form: physicians, surgeons, nurse practitioners, dentists and clinical psychologists. The circumstances they are documenting must be within their scope of practice and they must document that they have examined you when you were ill, not merely reported what you told them later. Original documentation is required.
If your documentation is for non-medical circumstances, you are advised to provide your documenter with the Guidelines the Faculty has developed, and the form if that is relevant. The nature of the documentation that is relevant depends on what is being documented: if you have to work, a note from your employer; if you’ve had a traffic accident, a copy of the police accident report; if someone died, a copy of the death certificate or a funeral notice; if your request involves required travel, a copy of your ticket or itinerary. Again, original documentation is required. Letters from family members are generally not helpful.
Note that providing documentation does not necessarily guarantee your request will be granted. Your documentation is taken into account in a full review of your request, but other factors may weigh more heavily in the decision.
Note that petition decisions are sent only to your U of T email address that you put on your petition form (other email addresses are not acceptable). If you petition, you should be checking your U of T email account for a response.
Note that a change on ROSI will not automatically update the email address on your petition. If you should change that address, you must contact your College Registrar's Office to have the information on your petition changed as well, or the Deferred Examinations Office if you are waiting to receive instructions for viewing your personal deferred examination schedule.
If you have not had a response to your petition for an unusually long time, i.e., outside the response timelines indicated here, you should follow up with your College Registrar's Office.
If your First Request is refused, and if you think you have further information or further arguments to make in support of your request, you may appeal the decision by making a Second Request through your College Registrar’s Office. Before doing so, you should discuss your case with the staff at that office to assess whether there is more you can add or any likelihood of success.
Deadline: You must file your Second Request within 90 days of the date of the decision on your First Request.
With a Second Request, you are essentially asking the Committee on Standing to review your case, again using written materials. Your initial request was given careful consideration, but did not meet the Committee’s normal criteria for an exception to the rules. Petitions successful at the second stage are often ones that provide more detailed information, further explanations or new documentation that might give a different perspective on the initial request. Where such new information makes the Second Request grantable under the normal criteria, the Petitions Office will grant it immediately. Otherwise it will be reviewed at a meeting of the Committee on Standing. The Committee is made up of professors, college registrars and a student, and is chaired by an Associate-Dean. Petitions are heard by number only (as above), and so the petitioning student is not identified to the members of the Committee. You will hear in writing whether your request is Granted or Refused.
Response Timeline: The Committee on Standing meets once a month throughout the year. It may be necessary to collect additional information before the Committee can hear the request, but you will receive a decision as soon as possible, and almost never beyond the 90-day guideline noted above.
If your Second Request is denied by the Committee on Standing, you may take it to the next level. This is the Faculty’s Academic Appeals Board. You do so by indicating you want to Appeal (again in writing through your college registrar’s office). This appeal is considered entirely afresh by a different group of people. You may submit a fresh statement, but you need not do so.
Deadline: You must file your Appeal within 90 days of the date on the decision of the Committee on Standing refusing your Second Request.
The Academic Appeals Board operates according to its own Rules of Procedure (PDF document).
The Board is made up of professors and student representatives different from those on the Committee on Standing. The Chair of the Committee on Standing appears before the Appeals Board to represent the Committee on Standing and explain its decision regarding the Second Request. At this appeal level, the student has the right to appear in person to present and explain the case to the Committee. You may also engage legal assistance to support you in presenting your appeal if you wish. (Students on a tight budget may wish to consult a student lawyer from Downtown Legal Services.) Some time after the meeting, you will receive a formal, written response accepting or denying your appeal, and giving reasons for the decision.
Response Timeline: Normally, the Appeals Board will meet within 90 days of receiving your request for a hearing.
If your appeal is denied by the Faculty’s Board, the final level of appeal is the University’s Academic Appeals Committee, a committee of the Academic Board, which is the academic arm of Governing Council. This meets infrequently and is a much more formal panel chaired by someone with legal expertise. If you reach this stage, you will be receiving information and guidance in more formal ways than this Guide. Students are generally advised to seek legal assistance at this level; although it is not mandatory, it does help expedite the process.
Deadline: You must file your appeal from the Appeals Board refusal within 90 days of the date on that decision. The appeal must be submitted in writing to the Office of the Governing Council, Simcoe Hall.
Response Timeline: As the Appeals Committee hears appeals from across the whole University and draws its membership widely, the normal time for a hearing and response may extend from months to almost a year.