March 24, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 91  

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NEWS

Student sues school for bad advice

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

A student attending Grande Prairie Regional College in Alberta has successfully sued the college for giving her wrong advice, and was awarded over $21,000.

“We’ve appealed the decision and we’re waiting,” said GPRC President Jim Henderson, explaining the student was planning on transferring to one of three schools and received advice about the University of Alberta, but then decided in favour of the University of Lethbridge. She was advised the criteria for both schools was the same.

“It appears she got the wrong advice; the judgment was unusual,” he said. “From our perspective, if she was given the wrong advice then she should have spotted it — she didn’t do that.”

Henderson also noted the problems with the court’s decision surrounding academic advice from educational institutions. “If giving advice opens you to liability, then there’s a lot of people who don’t want to do that,” he said. “If they will be held accountable, the institution may just not give advice — they just might not do that.”

He added that insurance for the school’s academic counselling services is being considered by the administration. “We would have to seriously consider if we want to be giving advice in the future,” Henderson said, adding if the insurance becomes preventative then the school will have problems. “My belief is that one case shouldn’t prevent all students from receiving advice.”

“It may well be that we haven’t heard the end of this issue,” explained Western law professor Stephen Pitel. “[But] I’m not sure it will be much of a precedent because it’s still under appeal. In the meantime, I don’t think it will change anything.”

According to Pitel, academic counselling is a service and should not be negligent in providing information to students; in the case of GPRC, the student would have had to prove negligence, and the college would have had to prove it attempted to rectify the situation.

“I don’t see this being a floodgate type of case even if she wins the appeal,” he added. “Standard of care isn’t a standard of perfection. They don’t have to provide perfect advice.”

“It’s kind of her fault, too; she should’ve gone back to the counsellors and double-checked,” said first-year social science student Lindsay McGill.

The student who won the lawsuit, Heather Crerar, could not be reached for comment.

—with files from Christopher Smeenk

 

 

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