Case #1011

DATE: October 7, 2019

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. H.A. ("the Student")

HEARING DATE: July 8, 2019

Panel Members:
Ms. Johanna Braden, Chair
Professor Julian Lowman, Faculty Member
Ms. Natasha Brien, Student Member

Appearances:
Mr. Robert A. Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP

In Attendance:
Ms. Jennifer Dent, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Not in Attendance:
The Student

The Student was charged with two counts of academic misconduct under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he knowingly falsified, circulated or made use of two forged academic records, namely, documents purporting to be Confirmation of Enrolment letters from the University dated June 23, 2017 and September 6, 2017, respectively.

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The Panel noted that the Policy on Official Correspondence with Students makes it clear that a student is responsible for maintaining a current and valid University-issued email account. Students are also expected to monitor and retrieve their email on a frequent and consistent basis. The University provided evidence that the Student had been served at his ROSI-listed email address with the charges and notice of hearing. The Student was subsequently served with a revised notice of hearing changing the name of the Chair; and a second revised notice of hearing, changing the location of the hearing. Neither of the revised notices changed the date or time of the hearing. The Panel noted that there was evidence that the Student had accessed his email account after service of the charges and the original notice of hearing which notified him of the date and time of the hearing. Taking into consideration rules 9, 14 and 17 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the University Tribunal coupled together with sections 6 and 7 of the Statutory Powers and Procedures Act, the Panel found the Student had been given reasonable notice of the hearing and ordered the hearing to proceed to be heard on its merits in the absence of the Student.

The Student was registered at the University from Fall 2015 to Fall-Winter 2016-2017. A Risk Assessment Officer at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“ICRCC”) received two letters from the Student in support of the Student’s application for a study permit replacement. The two letters sent by the Student to ICRCC purported to be Confirmation of Enrolment letters from the University, but were forgeries. The two letters were clearly forged or altered and were not genuine letters from the University. There was no direct evidence that the Student forged or altered them himself; the only evidence was the letters sent to ICRCC and then to the University for authentication. The Tribunal found it more likely than not that the Student, at the very least, circulated and made use of two falsified Confirmation of Enrolment letters so that he could fraudulently obtain a study permit replacement allowing him to remain in Canada.

The Tribunal was satisfied that the two forged Confirmation of Enrolment letters were “academic records” for the purposes of the Code. The Tribunal noted that the definition of “academic record” contained in the Code includes “any other record or document of the University ... used, submitted or to be submitted for the purposes of the University.” Although the Panel noted that Confirmation of Enrolment letters are typically used to satisfy third parties regarding a student’s academic standing, they serve an important purpose of the University. They represent an official control mechanism for verifying enrolment, so that only students registered with the University can claim the benefits associated with registration. The Panel found the Student guilty of the two charges.

In determining the appropriate sanction, the Panel noted that although this was the Student’s first academic offence, the dishonest conduct was repeated, and the falsifications were deliberate and careful. There was no evidence of extenuating circumstances, as the Student declined to participate in the hearing. The Panel noted that when people fake their University enrolment with immigration officials, they put honest international students at a disadvantage, jeopardize the University’s reputation and undermine the University’s efforts to accommodate and support international students. The Panel also stated that the need for general deterrence is a significant concern as this type of offence is hard for the University to police. The Panel concluded that a five-year suspension would not be appropriate. Had the Student appeared and given credible, truthful evidence of compelling mitigating circumstances that helped to explain the misconduct, the Panel stated that it might have concluded differently. As the Student did not attend, the Panel found that the most severe sanction, a recommendation of expulsion, was the most suitable.

The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a five-year suspension; a recommendation that the Student be expelled, as per s. C.ii.(b)(i) of Code; and a report to the Provost for a publication.