Academic Accommodations and Consideration

Throughout law school, you will have a number of academic responsibilities, including exams, assignments, and essays, all with their own deadlines and parameters. For one reason or another, you may need adjustments to one or more of those responsibilities. The Faculty’s official policy on Academic Accommodation and Consideration can be found here. What follows is a plain language explanation of how the process works.

While it is common to speak of a request for an adjustment to academic responsibilities as a request for accommodation, the University actually uses the term Academic Accommodation specifically to refer to adjustments granted by the central University office called Accessible Education. This is the office to which you would apply if you need ongoing adjustments to your academic responsibilities, perhaps because you have a chronic medical issue that affects your ability to meet your academic responsibilities. Arrangements made with Accessible Education do not go through the Law Faculty. Instead, you contact the Accessible Education office yourself and provide the necessary information directly to a counsellor. The counsellor can then recommend various accommodations, such as extra exam writing time, rest breaks, or the use of assistive equipment. The recommendations are communicated to the Law Faculty and are almost always approved. Accommodations are often implemented by Accessible Education, meaning, for example, that you would write your exams with them rather than at the Law Faculty. Some accommodations, however, have to be implemented by the Law Faculty, such as a recommendation for extended deadlines.

If you think you qualify for an academic accommodation, it is very important to register early with Accessible Education. Accessible Education has a deadline every term by which it must receive requests for exam accommodation. While the Law Faculty can offer some of the same accommodations, it cannot offer all of them.

If you are seeking an adjustment to academic responsibilities through the Law Faculty, that is technically called a request for Academic Consideration (although it's fine if you use the word accommodation – we’ll understand what you mean). Requests for consideration are usually to address shorter-term issues (or what are officially called “extenuating circumstances”), like a concussion, the flu, or grief over the loss of a relative. This list is not exhaustive and the Faculty takes a relatively broad approach to extenuating circumstances to include physical or mental illness, bereavement, and unavoidable personal responsibilities. Just bear in mind that neither minor ailments nor stress associated with academic performance in and of itself will usually be a basis for granting consideration, and there is no expectation that a student be in optimum condition to be able to carry out academic responsibilities.

To request academic consideration, you just have to contact the Associate Dean (Academic). Note that you do not usually have to contact your course instructor (subject to the exception noted below).

Contacting the Associate Dean is easy. There is no form to complete. An email, a phone call, or a knock on the door suffices. Just be sure to make contact before the relevant deadline. Requests for consideration after a deadline has passed are less likely to be granted. At a minimum, you will need to explain why you did not make contact earlier.

When you contact the Associate Dean (Academic), be sure to be specific about what you are seeking (e.g., an extension for these assignments of this number of days). The Associate Dean will also need to know when the extenuating circumstances began or will begin, the ways and extent to which the extenuating circumstances affect or will affect your ability to meet academic responsibilities, and when you expect the extenuating circumstances to end. Supporting documentation will often be required, although you are free to contact the Associate Dean before obtaining such documentation. If you have questions, the Associate Dean can tell you what sort of supporting documentation would be appropriate.

We understand that the academic consideration process can require you disclose private information. All information will be held in confidence and only disclosed to the extent necessary to consider requests, arrange for academic relief, or process any appeals. You also don’t always need to disclose to the Associate Dean the precise nature of your extenuating circumstances. Sometimes, documentation from someone like a health care provider can suffice. This standard University Student Medical Certificate can often be used.

A few other points:

  • Most requests for academic consideration have to be made to the Associate Dean but requests relating to work worth less than 10% of the total grade in a course are made to the course instructor. That said, any required supporting documentation must still be submitted to the Associate Dean, not to the course instructor. It is probably easiest to start always with the Associate Dean. You can be re-directed as necessary.
  • If your request relates to work worth 10% or more, you do not need to disclose your request or the reasons for it to the course instructor. There is no need to do so to be eligible for academic consideration. Instructors usually have no power to grant consideration and we have procedures in place to preserve anonymity where appropriate.
  • If your extenuating circumstances progress in unexpected ways (positively or negatively), you are expected to keep the Associate Dean up-to-date.