Case 1115

DATE: August 20, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. X.L. ("the Student")

HEARING DATE: April 7, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Ms. Lisa Talbot, Chair
Professor Blake Poland, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. Abdul Sidiqi, Student Panel Member

Mr. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP

Hearing Secretary:
Ms. Carmelle Salomon-Labbé, Associate Director, Office of 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 (“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, namely a Degree purportedly from the University of Toronto.

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. On reading the affidavit of service and the affidavit of Counsel’s assistant, and in consideration of the Policy on Official Correspondence with Students (“Policy”) and Rules 9 and 17 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure (“Rules”) of the University Tribunal, the Panel was satisfied that the Student was served with the Charges and the Notice of Electronic Hearing. The Panel noted that actual notice is not required under the Rules and service can be effected by sending the notice to the email address listed in ROSI. As per the Policy, students are expected to monitor and retrieve emails. The Panel therefore noted that the University satisfied the services requirements as set out in the Rules. The Panel ordered that the hearing proceed in the Student’s absence.

The Panel considered affidavit evidence submitted on behalf of the University. The evidence outlined that Rotman Commerce received an email from an employee background check and due diligence service, Quanren, asking to verify information pertaining to the Student’s degree completion status at the University of Toronto. The email attached an electronic copy of a degree which contained the Student’s name and indicated that they had obtained a Bachelor of Commerce from the University in 2014. In considering all of the affidavit evidence, the Panel accepted that the name, date of birth, and course of study (commerce) identified in the email from Quanren (“Quanren email”) match those of the Student and that the Degree was forged as the Student did not graduate from the University.

The Panel noted that while there were other students in the University’s Repository of Student Information (“ROSI”) with the same name, no other student with the same name had a birth date that matched the date of birth identified in the Quanren email. The one identifying characteristic that did not match was gender; the gender identified in ROSI was female and the gender identified in the Quanren email was male. The Panel noted that the evidence before it establishes that the Student is the only individual with both the name and birth date identified in the Quanren email. The Panel further noted that unlike gender, a birth date is immutable. Therefore, the Panel was satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the Student is the individual identified in the Quanren email. Based on all the evidence, the Panel entered a finding of guilt under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code for forging or in any other way altering or falsifying an academic record, and/or uttering, circulating or making use of such forged, altered or falsified record.

In determining sanction, the Panel considered the principles and factors relevant to sanction discussed in University of Toronto and Mr. C. (“Mr. C. factors”). With respect to the Student’s character, extenuating circumstances and the likelihood to reoffence, the Panel noted that the Student did not participate in the academic discipline process or in the proceeding. The Student did not have any prior offences but did engage in deliberate dishonesty. There was no evidence before the Panel of character, extenuating circumstances or remorse. The Panel found that the Student exhibited dishonesty and unethical character and in light of these factors, the Panel noted that there is a likelihood of repetition of the offence. With respect to the nature of the offence, the detriment to the University and general deterrence, the Panel noted that these factors overlap. They further noted that forgery of an academic record is one of the most serious offences a student can commit as outlined in University of Toronto v. J.R. (Case No. 1018, November 26, 2019) at paragraph 19. The importance of maintaining the integrity of the University’s academic records and deterring students from engaging in forgery of degree certificates cannot be overemphasized.

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 or until Governing Council makes its decision on expulsion, whichever comes first; a corresponding notation on the transcript; recommendation that the Student be expelled, as per s. C.ii.(b)(i) of Code; report to Provost for publication.