Case 1041

DATE: December 15, 2020

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. D.S. (“the Student”)

HEARING DATES: September 28, 2020, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Mr. Douglas F. Harrison, Chair
Professor Julian Lowman, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Julie Farmer, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP

Not in Attendance:
The Student

In Attendance:
Ms. Krista Kennedy, Administrative Clerk & Hearings Secretary, Office of the Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances, University of Toronto

The Student was charged under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he knowingly used or possessed an unauthorized aid, or aids, or obtained unauthorized assistance in a final exam. In the alternative, the Student was charged under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code on the basis that the Student knowingly engaged in a form of cheating, academic dishonesty or misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation in order to obtain academic credit or other academic advantage in connection with use or possession of study notes in a final exam.

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 notice of hearing. The University’s Policy on Official Correspondence with Students provides that students enrolled at the University are responsible for maintaining current contact information in the Repository of Student Information (“ROSI”) database inclusive of a valid University-issued email account. Rule 9(c) of the Rules provides that service can be effected on a student by email to a student’s email address as recorded in ROSI. The Panel noted that there was evidence that the Student had accessed his email account after service of the charges and after various emails from Assistant Discipline Counsel enclosing disclosure and requests to schedule the matter. The Student was subsequently provided an opportunity to provide submissions in relation to the request of Assistant Discipline Counsel for this matter to proceed electronically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Student did not respond to this request and the hearing was ordered to proceed electronically. The charges, notice, and other email correspondence to the Student went unanswered. Relying on Rule 13 and 17 of the University Tribunal’s Rules of Practice and Procedure (“Rules”) and s. 7(3) of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act (“SPPA”), the Panel ordered that the hearing proceed in the Student’s absence as it found that reasonable notice of the hearing and charges had been provided to the Student.

Regarding the charges laid under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code, the Panel examined the evidence of Dean’s Designate and two Chief Presiding Officers where it was determined that the Student was using various study notes in a final exam without authorization. There was further evidence that the Student admitted to the Dean’s Designate that he possessed an unauthorized aid during the final exam, but the Student did not admit to using it during the exam. The Panel outlined that a finding of possession of an unauthorized aid does not require any evidence that the unauthorized aid was used during the final exam. On the evidence presented by the University and the Panel’s review of the final exam answer booklet and the study notes, the Panel found that the Student was guilty of one count of knowingly using or possessing an unauthorized aid in a final exam, contrary to section B.i.1.(b) of the Code as the Student had copied a significant amount of the material from the study notes into his final exam booklet. Given the Panel’s finding, the University withdrew the charge under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code.  

In determining sanction, the Panel considered that the Student brought extensive notes into the final exam and disguised those notes by handwriting them in a term exam answer booklet that could easily be mistaken for a final exam answer booklet and might therefore go unnoticed by the invigilators. The Panel declined to accept the University’s position on penalty as the Panel found that in this case the Student’s actions were evidence of a calculated, pre-meditated effort to cheat on the exam, with complete disregard for rules at the final exam. The Panel further found that academic honesty is a fundamental principle of the University and when a student is found cheating or flouting the rules of the University, the Panel must take a strong stand to sanction the Student and send a strong message to the University community that these actions will not be tolerated. Without the Student’s participation, the Panel found no evidence of mitigating circumstances or factors that would prevent the Panel from imposing a strong sanction. Given the seriousness of the offence the Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in the course; a three-year suspension; a four-year notation on transcript; and a publication by the Provost of a notice of the decision and sanctions imposed with the Student’s name withheld.