Depressed ex-student charges HKU with bias

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2008, 12:00am

A former social work student is suing the University of Hong Kong, claiming it forced her to drop out of a bachelor's degree and discriminated against her because she suffers from depression and an anxiety disorder.

The woman, whose identity cannot be revealed because of her illness, launched the damages claim with a writ in the District Court on May 16, claiming HKU forced her to quit her studies in January.

She suffers from generalised anxiety disorder and depression.

The former student claims the university and staff discriminated against her from the time she was admitted to the full-time bachelor of social work degree course in September 2003.

In the writ, the former student says she had problems handing in her assignments on time and sitting exams because of her mental problems.

She alleges assistant professor Lam Chiu-wan had implied her disability was 'troublesome' after the university granted her an extension on a term assignment in May 2004 on the advice of a psychiatrist.

She claims Professor Lam had applied 'a more stringent and meticulous standard' when assessing her assignment when it was eventually submitted, awarding her a C minus in January 2005. She found it inconsistent with the A plus she got for her first assignment in the same subject.

The student said she had been doing well in the course and was set to receive a scholarship and gain a position on the dean's list if she earned a B.

The writ claims that in her previous academic year she had a 3.35 grade point average, equivalent to more than a B plus. However, she was given only a D or D minus for the course examination, exacerbating her depression and anxiety disorder.

The woman claims she then complained about her treatment to another teacher, Debbie Lam Oi-bing, in September 2005.

Dr Lam had told her she could not guarantee staff would not make her unhappy in the future, prompting her to go to the university's equal opportunity office with a claim that she had been victimised.

In November 2005, the woman claims, she was told by tutor Ernest Chui Wing-tak that she was not fit to work in the social work field because of her disability.