Wronged students have a right to sue their schools

Image by: Stephanie Jiang

One student’s 11-million-dollar claim against a university may seem clownish at first glance. However, behind the cartoonish sum is a surprisingly credible argument for a student’s right to an education. This case could inspire more students to sue their schools for failing to educate them, and that may not be such a bad thing.

Dr. James Stuart alleges the program he completed at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry didn’t give him the necessary training to get licensed as a medical microbiologist. Stuart’s case argues the program was on probation while he was enrolled, with many faculty members and all of his classmates dropping out before graduation. Stuart then failed the medical microbiologist exam three times before suing the school for failing to prepare him.

Even though he should’ve recognized that something was going wrong with the program when every single one of his classmates dropped out, he wasn’t wrong to stay when they left. As much as we could question Stuart’s judgement for staying in a failing program, the onus here should be placed on the faculty and the school. He can’t be blamed because he stayed in the course. It’s not his responsibility to evaluate his program for quality, it’s up to his school. 

If a program on probation has lost all of its students but one, along with a number of its faculty members, the school has a responsibility to assure a quality education to the one student they retained. If the school can’t do something as simple as that, they can’t justify continuing to take that student’s tuition.

This case isn’t about a university being at fault for one student’s lack of success. It’s about a school being held accountable for doing their part to provide their students with the quality education they’ve been promised.

When Western brings up their evidence in this case, they need to show they did everything they possibly could to keep up the program’s quality. If they failed to to do so and continued to take his tuition, the student is in the right. 

Having a well-publicized court case on a student versus an institution can make waves. Ideally, it will force Western and other universities to avoid a similar situation in the future by taking their programs’ intended learning outcomes seriously. Depending on the decision, this case could incite new suits against universities from students who believe they’ve been wronged. 

Regardless of whether or not Stuart deserves to win, this case’s existence has the power to strike some fear into the heart of a university by threatening their money. Taking student claims like this seriously on a national stage may actually end up doing some good. 

—Journal Editorial Board


Editorials, Legal System, Western

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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