Case 1074

DATE: May 3, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. X.C.

HEARING DATE: February 1, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Ms. Johanna Braden, Chair
Professor Paul Kingston, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. Alex Erickson, Student Panel Member

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

In Attendance:
Ms. Krista Kennedy, Administrative Clerk & Hearing Secretary, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Not in Attendance: The Student

The Student was charged under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that the Student knowingly forged, or in any other way altered, or falsified a document or evidence required by the University of Toronto, or uttered, circulated or made use of such forged, altered or falsified document. In the alternative, the Student was charged with two counts of knowingly engaging in a form of cheating, academic dishonesty or misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation in order to obtain academic credit or other academic advantage contrary to s. B.i.3(b) of the Code.

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University requested that the Panel proceed with the hearing in the Student’s absence. The University submitted evidence regarding service of the charges and notice of electronic hearing. The Panel received evidence that the Student had not been enrolled in any classes at the University for the last four years and that the last time the Student accessed her ROSI-listed email address was three years ago. The incident that gives rise to the charges occurred in 2019 and since that time the University, the Tribunal and Assistant Discipline Counsel have attempted to communicate with the Student on various occasions, without any reply from the Student. The Panel received evidence that Assistant Discipline Counsel’s office attempted to reach the Student at the telephone number listed in ROSI, however, the individual that answered the call advised them that they had the incorrect phone number. The evidence indicates that the Student has not received any emails from the University about the incident, she has not received the charges nor the notice of electronic hearing. However, the University’s 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. Taking into consideration Rules 9, 16, 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 did not receive actual notice, but 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.

Regarding the charges laid under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code, the Panel received evidence from the former Executive Director of Enrolment Services and University Registrar (“Executive Director”) and the Associate Registrar, Records, Registration and Graduation at University of Toronto Mississauga (“Associate Registrar”). The Executive Director provided evidence that he received an email from an Intelligence Officer at the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) advising that they were conducting an investigation and provided the Student’s name and date of birth. CBSA requested the assistance of the Executive Director to verify whether a letter submitted by the Student was issued by the University of Toronto. The body of the letter purports to certify that the Student completed all the requirements for an Honours Bachelor of Commerce Degree and signed by the Registrar and Director of Enrolment Management. The Executive Director completed a search of the University’s records and located only one student that was a match with the name and date of birth – the Student. Upon review of the Student’s ROSI record, the Executive Director’s evidence provided that the letter was not an authentic document issued by the University because the Student had not completed the requirements for an Honours Bachelor of Commerce Degree, the Student was suspended at the time the letter was purportedly written and the named Registrar on the letter was not the Registrar at the relevant time. The Panel received evidence from the Associate Registrar who also searched the University’s records and compared them to the letter and concluded that the letter was not an authentic University document. Upon review of the evidence, the majority of the Panel found the Student guilty of uttering, circulating, and making use of a forged academic record contrary to s. B.i.3(a) of the Code. Given the Panel’s findings, the University withdrew the alternative charge under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code.

A Panel member dissented. The dissenting Panel member was not convinced, on a balance of probabilities, that the Student had either falsified the record herself or uttered, circulated or made use of it. In the absence of persuasive evidence explaining how and why the CBSA received the letter, and by whom they received it, the dissenting Panel member was unable to find that the Student was guilty of any form of academic dishonesty.

In determining sanction, the majority of the Panel and the dissenting Panel member proceeded to hear submissions from the University regarding sanction. The dissenting Panel Member understood that they were to proceed as if they had found the Student guilty. The Panel considered the principles and factors relevant to sanction discussed in University of Toronto and Mr. C. (“Mr. C. factors”) and determined that this offence was an act of flagrant and deliberate dishonesty; a profoundly serious offence which requires a severe sanction in order to deter other students from committing the same offence. The Panel further found that without the Student’s participation there was no evidence of any extenuating circumstances, however, the Panel did not hold the Student’s absence against her since she had no actual notice of the hearing. The Panel noted that although they are not bound by previous cases of this Tribunal, it is useful for like cases to be treated alike so that all parties understand what kind of penalty they can expect based on the findings. Upon review of the relevant case law and the Mr. C. factors, the Panel accepted the sanction proposed by the University. 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 report to the Provost for a publication.