Case 1085

DATE: April 20, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. W.Z.

HEARING DATE: November 27, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Ms. Lisa Talbot, Chair
Professor Goerges Farhat, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. David Allens, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Ms. Tina Lie, 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 ss. B.i.1(a) and B.i.1(d) 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 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 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 and one count of knowingly obtaining unauthorized assistance in connection with an assignment contrary to section B.i.1.(b) of the Code.

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University submitted evidence regarding service of the charges and notice of electronic hearing. Upon review of the evidence, the University’s Policy on Official Correspondence with Students, and Rules 9 and 17 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the University Tribunal, the Panel found that the Student was served with the charges and notice of hearing and ordered that the hearing proceed in the Student’s absence.

Regarding the charges laid under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code, the Panel received evidence that the Student requested to defer his final exam due to illness. Approximately four days later, the student submitted a completed and signed Verification of Student Illness or Injury form in support of his request to defer his exam and obtain academic accommodation. At the time that the form was submitted by the Student, the Office of the Registrar did not verify the authenticity of the form and the student’s deferral was approved. At a later date, the Office of Registrar was reviewing previously submitted Verification of Student Illness or Injury forms and noted that the one submitted by the Student resembled one that had been submitted by another student that had been confirmed as inauthentic. The Associate Registrar provided evidence that she contacted the doctor who allegedly signed the form and the doctor confirmed that the Student was not a patient of his office and that he was not the author of the form. Upon review of the evidence, the Panel found that the Student provided a forged or falsified medical note to obtain academic accommodation in an attempt to obtain academic credit or other academic advantage. Regarding the charges laid under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, the Panel examined evidence from the Professor who taught the course for which the assignment in question was submitted. When the assignment was graded, one of the teaching assistants noticed that a significant number of students had given the same or similar answers to several questions and the Student was among this group of students. It was the Professor’s evidence that it would be unlikely that a group of students would independently come up with the same terms for their answers. Upon review of this evidence, the Panel found that the Student knowingly obtained unauthorized assistance from other students and knowingly submitted the assignment with the intention that the University of Toronto Mississauga rely on it as containing his own ideas or work in considering the appropriate academic credit to be assigned to his work.

The Panel found that the Student was guilty of one count of knowingly engaging in any form of cheating, academic dishonesty or misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation, in order to obtain academic credit or other academic advantage of any kind, contrary to section B.i.3(b) of the Code; and one count of knowingly representing an idea or expression of an idea or work of another as his own, contrary to section B.i.1(d) of the Code. Given the Panel’s findings, the University withdrew the alternative charges.

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 without the Student’s participation there was no evidence of any extenuating circumstances. The Panel noted that although the Student did not have any prior offences, the Student did engage in two separate offences that occurred two years apart. The Panel found that the Student exhibited dishonesty and an unethical character, therefore there was a likelihood of repetition of the offence. The Panel also considered the serious nature of the offence, the detriment to the University and the need to deter students from committing an offence of academic dishonesty. 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 final grade of zero in the courses; a three-year suspension; a four-year notation on the transcript; and a report to the Provost for a publication.