Case 1055

DATE: January 13, 2021

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

HEARING DATE: October 15, 2020, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Ms. Ira Parghi, Chair
Professor Richard Day, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Shirley Deng, Student Panel Member

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 ss. B.i.1(b) and B.i.1(d) 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 on an assignment and knowingly represented an idea or work of another as his own in an assignment to obtain an academic credit. 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 an assignment.  

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University’s Policy on Official Correspondence with Students provides that students enrolled at the University must maintain current contact information in their record in the University’s record of academic history and student information (“ROSI”) and must update that information if it changes. Rule 9 of the Rules provides that service can be effected via email to the student’s email address in ROSI. The University provided evidence that the Student had been served at his ROSI-listed email address with the charges and notice of hearing. 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. Further, Assistant Discipline Counsel’s office attempted to reach the Student via telephone, yet their calls and messages went unanswered. The Student was subsequently provided an opportunity to provide submissions in relation to the request of the Provost of the University for the hearing 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 17 of the Rules and ss. 6 and 7 of the SPPA, the Panel ordered that the hearing proceed in the Student’s absence as they found that reasonable notice had been provided to the Student.

Regarding the charges laid under ss. B.i.1(b) and B.i.1(d) of the Code, the Panel examined the evidence of Dean’s Designate and the Professor who taught the course for which the assignment in question was submitted. The Panel heard evidence that the work the Student submitted was of high quality and sophisticated; a quality in which was inconsistent with the Student’s previous work. The Panel also received evidence from the Dean’s Designate that outlined the discussion between the Student and the Dean’s Designate at their meeting to discuss the assignment. The Panel further received evidence that the Student, when asked, could not define, distinguish or explain certain terminology and analyses discussed in his assignment. The Student denied having committed an academic offence. On the evidence presented by the University, the Panel found that on the balance of probabilities the Student was guilty of one count of plagiarism and one count of unauthorized assistance, contrary to sections B.i.1(d) and B.i.1(b) of the Code, respectively Given the Panel’s finding, the University withdrew the charge under s. B.i.3(b). 

In determining sanction, the Panel considered the principles and factors relevant to sanction discussed in University of Toronto and Mr. C. (“Mr. C. factors”) and determined that it was important to consider the Student’s prior offences, the serious nature of the offence, the great detriment to the University and the strong need to deter others from committing similar offences. The Panel further considered the Tribunal’s case law, including, University of Toronto and Y.G. and University of Toronto and R.W. which indicate that plagiarism corrodes academic integrity at the University and undermines the relationship of trust between the University and its students. The Panel found that, for these reasons, plagiarism is considered a very serious offence that requires a serious penalty. Upon review of the relevant case law and the Mr. C. factors, the Panel accepted the sanction proposed by the University. Without the Student’s participation, the Panel found no evidence of mitigating circumstances or factors that would prevent the Panel from imposing a serious penalty. The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in the course; a three-year suspension; a four-year notation on the transcript; and a publication by the Provost of a notice of the decision and sanctions imposed with the Student’s name withheld.