DATE: October 17, 2019
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Y.L.
HEARING DATE: July 19, 2019
Ms. Johanna Braden, Chair
Professor Michael Evans, Faculty Member
Ms. Alena Zelinka, Student Member
Ms. Lauren Pearce, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Jennifer Dent, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Not in Attendance:
The Student was charged with academic misconduct under s. B.i.1(a) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he knowingly falsified, circulated or made use of a forged academic record, namely, a University of Toronto Verification of Student Illness or Injury Form (the “Illness Form”). The Student submitted the Illness Form in support of his petitions for a first deferral of an unwritten final examination in respect of two courses at the University.
Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University provided evidence that the Student had been served at his ROSI-listed email address with the charges and the notice of hearing. The Panel noted that there was evidence that the Student had accessed his email account after service of the charges and notice of hearing. The Tribunal was satisfied that the Student had been given reasonable notice of the hearing in compliance with the notice requirements of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act (the “Act”) and the Rules. The Tribunal therefore determined it would proceed to hear the case on its merits in the absence of the Student.
The University requested leave to introduce an affidavit served on the Student four days before the hearing. The Panel noted that Rule 72 requires that affidavits proposed to be tendered in evidence at a hearing are to be disclosed at least 10 days before the hearing; however Rule 74 provides that the Tribunal may grant leave to introduce evidence that does not comply with Rule 72. The affidavit in question included evidence of a response from a doctor potentially involved with the Illness Form submitted by the Student to the University. The Tribunal granted leave permitting introduction of this affidavit for the following reasons: the affidavit contained information that was potentially significant to the merits of the hearing; the University had made reasonable steps to obtain the information earlier, but had been unable to do so; and the Student was not present to assert any prejudice.
The Student was registered at the University of Toronto Scarborough at all material times. In April 2018, the Student submitted two petitions for a first deferral of an unwritten examination, supported by an Illness Form. The Assistant Registrar of Petitions at the University gave evidence of her concerns about the Illness Form submitted by the Student: the doctor’s purported signature and registration number were hard to decipher, and a call to the phone number on the form was connected to the hospital’s Patient Accounts department. The Panel also heard evidence from an Academic Integrity Assistant at the University who investigated the authenticity of the Illness Form and confirmed with the hospital that there was no patient registered there matching the Student’s name. Finally, the Panel noted the affidavit of a legal assistant at the Assistant Discipline Counsel’s firm who had faxed the three doctors whose registration numbers matched the three possible versions of the scribbled number on the Illness Form. All three doctors eventually responded that they had no record of ever seeing a patient with any of three variations of the Student’s name.
The Tribunal found the Student guilty of the charge.
The Panel noted that the Student had previously admitted to plagiarizing an assignment, and that it was possible that the Student might again resort to dishonesty to avoid his academic obligations. The falsification in this case was deliberate and careful and could not have occurred by accident. Without the Student’s participation, there was no evidence of extenuating circumstances for the Tribunal to consider. The Panel also noted that falsified medical documentation undermines the University’s system of accommodation, and overburdens the staff charged with reviewing student petitions. The Panel stated that the need for deterrence is a significant concern as forgery can be difficult to detect.
The Panel found from its review of previous cases involving falsified medical notes that a two-year suspension is the threshold sanction, as a general rule. In light of the Student’s prior, admitted act of plagiarism, and in the absence of any mitigating evidence the Student might have otherwise provided, the Tribunal found that the sanctions requested by the University (including a three-year suspension) were fair, proportional and appropriate.
The Tribunal imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in the two courses at issue; a three-year suspension from the date of the order; a notation of the sanction on the Student’s academic record and transcript until four years from the date of the order; and publication by the Provost of a notice of the decision and sanctions imposed with the Student’s name withheld.