Student claims three events prove discrimination against
The complainant, Jesos Adrian Parkes, is a student at the
university. He disclosed that he is a Rastafarian who had a history
of mental illness. Subsequent to being suspended from the
university, Mr Parkes sought leave to proceed with a discrimination
complaint after it had been declined by the President of the
In his submission to the ADT, Mr Parkes alleged that the
university had discriminated against him as a result of his race
and disability when:
he was told by his lecturer, Dr Wilks, never to play music
again after he accessed and played a YouTube video on the
university's equipment console
in one of his lectures, Dr Wilks warned him never to ask a
question in class again
the university suspended him for a semester without reason
The university denied discriminating against Mr Parkes and
asserted that the actions taken against him were appropriate
responses to his behaviour.
Onus on student to establish discrimination
Pursuant to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), Mr Parkes had the
onus of establishing that the university had directly discriminated
against him on the grounds of disability and race by proving:
he suffers from a disability or is a member of a particular
the university subjected him to some form of unfavourable
the unfavourable treatment was different treatment than that
given to others
the reason for the unfavourable treatment was due to his race
Would the university have treated another student
In assessing whether the university's actions were
discriminatory against Mr Parkes, the ADT assessed whether the
treatment afforded to Mr Parkes would have been the same treatment
afforded to a student who was not a Rastafarian and who did not
have the same disability or mental illness.
Student instructed to turn off music in lecture theatre
Mr Parkes was instructed to turn off music and not to tamper
with the university's equipment console after Dr Wilks found
him broadcasting music at maximum volume from a computer in the
The tribunal found in favour of the university and held that it
was the nature and extent of Mr Parkes' conduct which led to Dr
Wilks' request, rather than Mr Parkes' race or
Student told not to ask questions
In asserting that he was discriminated against by being
requested not to ask questions, Mr Parkes stated that a
"white" student asked numerous questions without being
censured. The university's response was that the
"white" student asked relevant questions, whereas Mr
Parkes did not.
The ADT found in favour of the university, noting that it was
the nature and persistence of Mr Parkes' questions, rather than
his race or disability, that prompted Dr Wilks' response.
Student suspended from studies for one semester
Mr Parkes was suspended from the university for one semester
after he emailed threatening comments to his lecturer, Dr Wilks.
The email contained a thinly veiled threat to murder Dr Wilks after
Mr Parkes was given a lower mark for an assignment than the other
members of his group. The ADT found in favour of the university,
noting that the university had a genuine concern for safety.
University followed its own procedures and responded
appropriately to threat
The ADT held that the university had not discriminated against
Mr Parkes on the grounds of his race or disability, finding that
the requests to turn off music and not to access university
computer equipment formed part of the university's
administrative procedures and would be employed regardless of the
race or disability of a student.
With regard to Mr Parkes' suspension, the tribunal found
that it was an appropriate response to a serious threat made by Mr
Parkes and accordingly, leave was refused for Mr Parkes'
complaint to proceed.
Educational institutions need to apply policies
This decision illustrates the importance of educational
institutions consistently applying their administrative
We recommend that staff members be reminded of the policies
periodically and undergo anti-discrimination training.
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