Smoke allergy student loses out

December 8, 2000

A self-taught mathematics student claims his hopes of becoming an academic have been dashed because Leicester University chiefs refused to allow for his allergy to cigarette smoke.

Julian Babik, 32, says he was thrown off a mathematics degree course because he was unable to attend lectures in rooms adjacent to a foyer where smoking was allowed. He claims he became ill after trying to sit through lectures there.

After a year of non-attendance the university asked him to leave and would not let him back without a psychiatrist's report, despite receiving a doctor's report confirming his smoke allergy.

Mr Babik consulted a psychiatrist, but he refused to supply the report and was subsequently barred from rejoining his course.

A psychiatric consultant says, in a letter seen by The THES , that in Mr Babik's case "there did not appear to be any evidence of mental illness that needed psychiatric involvement". He added: "I advised him (Mr Babik) that I would not communicate with the university either in his favour or against him as really it had nothing to do with psychiatry whatsoever."

Smoke filtered through to the lecture theatre where most of the teaching on his course was held, Mr Babik said. The university took no action despite his complaint to the students union, lecturers and his personal tutor, he claimed.

Smoking was banned in the foyer the year after his expulsion.

Mr Babik's appeal to the university visitor has been dismissed on the grounds that the university did not act unreasonably in requiring a psychiatrist's report, since Mr Babik argued at appeal that he had been suffering from depression.

The visitor told him that for this reason "the question of your smoke allergy does not fall to be considered".

Mr Babik, who won a prize after gaining a grade A at A level in mathematics after teaching himself, said his application to join a course at Warwick University was turned down after he was given a poor reference by Leicester.

A Leicester University spokesman said: "Mr Babik has not been able to resume his studies at the university because he failed to comply with specific conditions imposed by the university relating to his re-entry. These conditions are not connected with the effects of smoke nor to the scope of the university's no-smoking policy.

"In dismissing Mr Babik's petition, the visitor determined that these conditions were not unreasonable.

"If Mr Babik ever returns to study at the university, the university will do everything reasonably possible to mitigate the effects of smoke on his health."

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