Dyslexic discrimination?

A university student has filed a human rights complaint against the University of Ottawa for discriminating against him because he is dyslexic. His dyslexia makes learning another language difficult, if not impossible, yet the university expects students who graduate from their Master’s of Political Science program to have at least some working knowledge of Canada’s two official languages.

That got me thinking, how far from the University of Ottawa is the nearest university that offers a Master’s of Political Science degree without any French requirements? After all, if learning a second language is the problem, why not go to another school where that’s not a requirement?

Carleton University has a Master’s in Political Science program and nary a mention of French is found in the brochure describing their program. In fact, on the second page of the provided link, under “language requirements” only English is mentioned.

And according to Google Maps the two universities are less than 5 km from each other. That is apparently less than a 20 minute bike ride (depending on traffic).

That begs the question, why apply at the University of Ottawa if you know that one of the essential requirements is impossible for you? Why not apply at Carleton where you know you can easily meet the criteria; especially given that Carleton is, quite literally, down the street from the University of Ottawa?

Perhaps the University of Ottawa is a superior university. Maybe Carleton just doesn’t compete. I don’t know the quality of their respective Political Science programs, but according to MacLean’s magazine, Carleton University scored as the fourth highest in the comprehensive rankings category. University of Ottawa… well, it didn’t make the top 15.

Sometimes the size of a department gives an indication to the quality of that program; if the university is willing to invest in hiring a bunch of professors to teach that subject matter then the university must take that subject matter seriously. The University of Ottawa appears to have 65 professors under their political science program. Carleton University has 53 non-retired and another 10 retired. If you include the retired in the count then the total number of professors in the two departments is roughly equal, and even if you don’t include the retirees the numbers aren’t that far off.

(Feel free to double check my counting; I may be off on those numbers.)

Honestly, as much as I am fully in favour of reasonable accommodation for everybody, to help all people succeed in life, I find this one to be a major head scratcher. I’m willing to bet there’s something going on behind the scenes. There must be more to the story than this. Did the University introduce the French requirements after he started his studies? If so, he shouldn’t even have to learn French at all. Perhaps the French requirements were vague and hidden in the University’s program description in which case there might be a case to be made that an exception is in order. But if so, then they better improve their literature.

But if the requirement to learn French predates his program application, and if the requirements were clear and unambiguous, then I don’t know what to make of this. Like I said, there must be something deeper going on here.

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