Pacific Media Watch

12 October 2018

AUSTRALIA: Victoria top court rejects student's lawsuit over dogwork failure

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Monash journalism student Chinmay Naik ... also took his case to then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the information commissioner, and the human rights commission – who all rejected him. Image: Screenshot from Guardian video

MELBOURNE (The Guardian/Pacific Media Watch): An Australian student from Melbourne who sued his own university after he failed an assignment about dogs has had his case dismissed by the Victorian Supreme Court.

Journalism student Chinmay Naik took Melbourne’s Monash University to court in September after his video report about dog breeds was flunked for having “no narrative structure” and containing only “general and unconnected questions surrounding dogs”.

Naik argued the university had breached its own policies by having his assignment marked twice by the same teacher, and that he was deserving of a pass grade.

He also took his case to then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, the information commissioner, and the human rights commission – who all rejected him.

On Friday, Justice Melinda Richards of the supreme court told him to “move on”.

“It’s not the end of the world, plenty of people fail a subject and go on to have successful and rewarding careers,” she said.

The judge did agree it was “arguable” the university had breached its policies by not revealing the identity of Naik’s second marker, but said this was not enough to grant the court jurisdiction over the university’s decision and “areas of academic judgment”.

Upcoming hearing
Naik has an upcoming hearing on the same issue before the Victorian civil and administrative tribunal later this month.

The 23-year-old’s report was given 12 out of 100 on 26 June 2017, but was regraded to a 21 after it was marked a second time. Monash denied it was marked by the same person.

Naik described his assignment as examining the negative stereotypes of different dog breeds, with footage of a dog park and interviews with dog owners.

“They talked about the need for greyhounds to be adopted, pets to have access to public spaces and discrimination against guide dogs,” he told the Herald Sun in September. “I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m not willing to accept I will fail.”

Markers’ comments described it having “no narrative structure, one shot of overlay, no expert interviews, no clear beginning/middle/end”.

“You have submitted a video of 3 vox pops … asking very general and unconnected questions surrounding dogs,” it said. “For what is supposed to be the major assignment of the unit, this fails to meet any of the minimum criteria.”

Outside court on Friday, Naik told Australian Associated Press that he respected the judgment and would still work to become a journalist.

“Life doesn’t end here,” he said. “Sometimes things don’t go your way, doesn’t mean that you were wrong.”

Naik represented himself in court and was ordered to pay $8,000 in costs.

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