DATE: August 23, 2019
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. J.W.
Hearing date: May 22, 2019
Ms. Omo Akintan, Chair
Professor Blake Poland, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. Bradley Au, Student Panel Member
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Sonia Patel, Summer Student, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk & Hearing Secretary, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Not in Attendance:
Trial Division – s. B.i.3(a) of Code – plagiarism – Student knowingly represented as his own idea or expression of an idea the work of another – Student purchased work from on-line source - Student did not attend hearing – proper service effected on Student – finding of guilt – barring mitigating circumstances, expulsion is likely sanction for purchase of work submitted for academic credit due to insidiousness of this form of plagiarism – goal of deterrence paramount in these cases - prior offences typically considered aggravating factor that tips scale in favour of expulsion – concurrent offences - commission of two academic misconduct offences in quick succession is aggravating factor that speaks to Student’s character - in absence of participation by Student, Panel unable to assess individual rehabilitation - grade of zero; five year suspension from date of order; recommendation of expulsion; and publication by Provost of notice of decision and sanctions with Student’s name withheld.
The Student was charged with two counts of academic misconduct under the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he knowingly committed plagiarism by representing as his own idea or expression of an idea the work of another that he did not cite appropriately. The charges related to a film review of the movie Aliens submitted by the Student in the Student’s Cinema Studies course. Specifically, the Student was charged with plagiarism under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code, and in the alternative, academic dishonesty under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code.
Neither the Student nor a representative of the Student attended the hearing before the Panel. The Panel noted that notice of the hearing had been served on the Student by email to the Student’s email address on ROSI and by courier to the address provided by the Student to the University on ROSI. Furthermore, prior to service of the notice, the University’s Assistant Discipline Counsel emailed the Student at the Student’s ROSI email account advising him of the charges filed against him. The Student responded, from his ROSI account, indicating that he was forwarding the email to his lawyer. The University’s Assistant Discipline Counsel subsequently received an email from a lawyer indicating that they had been retained by the Student. Upon the University’s Assistant Discipline Counsel following up with the lawyer at a later date, however, the lawyer indicated that the firm no longer represented the Student. The Panel also noted that the University’s Assistant Discipline Counsel confirmed with the University’s Associate Director of Information Security that the Student’s ROSI account was last accessed over a month following service of the notice of hearing. The Student did not respond to the notice of hearing or contact the University’s Assistant Discipline Counsel. The Panel was satisfied that valid and proper service had been effected on the Student in accordance with the Rules of Practice and Procedure and that the hearing could proceed in the Student’s absence.
The Panel noted that the Student had been registered in the Cinema Studies course in Fall 2016. The Student submitted a film review worth 20% of the final grade in the course through the website Turnitin.com. The work submitted by the Student was nearly identical (69% similar) to that submitted by another student in the course, P.H.Q. The University tendered evidence by way of affidavit of the Dean’s Designate for academic integrity that upon being asked about the film review, the Student denied misconduct, denied knowing P.H.Q. and suggested that the latter may have obtained a copy of the Student’s work when the Student printed it at the library. When informed that P.H.Q. had admitted purchasing the film review, the Student admitted that he also had purchased the review from an on-line source and that he was guilty of committing an academic offence. The Student signed an Academic Integrity Student Form to this effect.
Based on the evidence submitted by the University, the Panel made a finding of guilt. It noted that in determining penalty, it was required to consider the factors set out in the Mr. C case (Case No. 1976/77-3) and to determine the weight to be given to each factor based on the facts of the case. The Panel stated that a review of relevant Tribunal cases clearly demonstrates a consensus that purchasing and submitting purchased work for academic credit is among the most egregious offences a Student can commit. The Panel in this case agreed with the conclusion of the Tribunal in the case of CH&K (Case No. 596; 597; 598 November 23, 2011) that once detected, these offences must be dealt with at the serious end of the sanction spectrum. Given the seriousness of the misconduct in the instant case, the Panel started its penalty analysis from the presumption that, barring mitigating factors, expulsion should be the likely result. The Panel noted that prior offences are typically considered an aggravating factor that tips the scale in favour of expulsion. In this case, the Student had been questioned about and had acknowledged a separate academic offence, at the same meeting with the Dean’s Designate concerning the offence in the instant case. The Panel therefore took the view that the separate offence could more accurately be characterised as a concurrent offence, rather than a prior offence. It noted that a Student involved in a concurrent offence has not had the benefit of the counselling that would cause one to seriously question the student’s rehabilitation following a subsequent offence. At the same time, the Panel took the commission of two academic misconduct offences in quick succession as nonetheless an aggravating factor that speaks to the Student’s character. A further significant aggravating factor in this case was the denial of the allegations by the Student and the fact that he only admitted to purchasing the paper when told that the other student had so admitted. The Student did not participate in the process and as such the Panel stated that it was unable to properly assess individual rehabilitation. The Panel ultimately found that the goal of deterrence was paramount in this case.
The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero; a suspension from the University for five years from the date of the order; and a recommendation to the President of the University that the Student be expelled from the University. The Panel also ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication of a notice of the decision and the sanctions imposed, with the name of the Student withheld.