Case 1088

DATE: April 28, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. C.E.B.

HEARING DATE: March 26, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Ms. Sana Halwani, Chair
Professor Michael Saini, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Parsa Mahmud, Student Panel Member

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(d) and B.i.1(a) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that the Student knowingly represented an idea or expression of an idea or work of another as their own in a term paper submitted for academic credit. The Student was also charged with two counts of knowingly forged or in any other way altered or falsified a document or evidence required by the University, or uttered, circulated or made use of such forged, altered or falsified document, namely a paper and a screenshot.

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University provided evidence that the Student had been served on their ROSI-listed email address with the charges and the notice of hearing. Further, there was evidence before the Panel that the Student had requested an adjournment for the originally scheduled hearing date. The Student’s adjournment request was granted, and the Student was provided a deadline to provide her availability. The Student failed to respond, and a new hearing date was set. The University provided evidence of their efforts to contact the Student as well as evidence indicating that the Student’s email account was accessed after the direction from the Chair for the Student to provide her availability for a new hearing date. The Panel noted that although the evidence does not indicate that the Student received the notice of hearing, it does indicate that the Student was aware of the proposed date for the hearing and failed to communicate with the Tribunal or University’s Counsel regarding the proposed date. On review of the evidence, and considering the Statutory Powers and Procedures Act, Rules 9(b), 13, 14, and 17 of the University Tribunal’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, and the University’s Policy on Official Correspondence with Students, the Panel decided to proceed with the hearing in the Student’s absence as it found that reasonable notice had been provided to the Student.

Regarding the charges laid under ss. B.i.1(d) and B.i.1(a) of the Code, the Panel considered the affidavit evidence of the Professor who taught the course for which the paper in question was submitted and the Dean’s Designate. It was the evidence of the Professor that the paper contained passages that were verbatim, or near verbatim, excerpts from three online sources which were not cited in the paper. The Professor spoke to the Student about the paper and after their discussion the Student submitted a second paper which she purported to be the one she intended to submit as her final paper. Once the Professor received the purported final paper, he reviewed it and determined that there were substantial changes from the original paper. Along with the purported final paper, the Student submitted a screenshot to show that the paper was last modified on a date before she submitted the original paper. The Professor provided further evidence that the tracked changes showed that the Student had made changes to the purported final paper on the same day as their meeting as well as evidence that the document properties of the purported final paper shows that it was last modified on the day of their meeting. Once this matter was referred to the Provost, it was the Dean Designate’s evidence that the Student advised her that the original paper did include plagiarism, but it was submitted in error and that she intended to submit another version of the purported final paper. It was also the Dean Designate’s evidence that when asked about the edits to the paper as well as the document properties, the Student advised that she made an additional few edits when she realized she submitted the wrong paper. She denied modifying the document properties but could not explain the discrepancy. After reviewing the evidence, the Panel concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence, on a balance of probabilities, that the Student used the words of another without proper attribution in the paper, and admitted to the plagiarism in her meeting with the Dean’s Designate; altered the purported final paper by revising the paper substantially after the due date while representing that it was completed prior to the due date; and falsified the screenshot by representing that it was the screenshot of the Purported Final Paper when it was not. Therefore, the Panel noted that the charges were proven and found the Student guilty of both 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 at any stage in the process, the Student had not shown any remorse, nor had she presented any character evidence or raised any mitigating or extenuating factors that would warrant a more lenient sanction. The Student has two prior plagiarism offences which did not deter her from re-offending. The Panel commented that plagiarism undermines the teaching and learning missions of the University and forgery is at the most serious end of the spectrum as there is an element of deliberate and purposeful 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: final grade of zero in the course; a suspension for just over 57 months; a notation for just over 69 months or until graduation, whichever is later; and report to the Provost for a publication.