Case #417

DATE: information not available
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. J.D.

Hearing Date(s): July 21, 2005

Panel Members:
Melanie L. Aitken, Co-Chair
Stéphane Mechoulan, Faculty Member, Department of Economics
Sujata Pokhrel, Student Member, Faculty of UTSC, Life Sciences

Christopher Burr, for the Student
Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University

Trial Division - s. B.i.l(d) of Code – plagiarism - two papers plagiarized from internet – drafts submitted in error - testimony not credible – no corroborative evidence - conduct inconsistent with version of events - implausible version of events - guilty plea to prior plagiarism offence admissible as to credibility - claim of unfamiliarity with disciplinary process supportive of negative findings on credibility – finding of guilt – request that publication be denied due to public image - previous rehabilitation opportunity squandered – no demonstration of guilt or remorse - further dishonest academic acts likely should return to University be allowed before significant opportunity to reflect - strong message required due to nature of offence and seniority of student – appreciation of gravity of conduct improved by four-year notation - no risk of disclosure of identity given anonymity requirement of publication - grade assignment of zero for two courses; three-year suspension; four-year notation on transcript; and report to Provost

Student charged with two offences under s. B.i.1(d), and alternatively, two offences under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to allegations that the Student submitted two papers, in two courses, each of which contained passages plagiarized from the internet. The Panel considered versions of the papers and the Student’s testimony acknowledging that the phrases were authored by others. The Panel found that the Student was familiar with the principle of plagiarism and that it was reasonable to infer that information warning against plagiarism was made available to her. The Panel considered the evidence and found that the Student’s testimony that drafts of the papers were submitted in error to not be credible. The Panel found that there was no corroborative evidence to support the claim that a final version existed at the time the papers were submitted. The Panel found that the Student’s conduct was inconsistent with her version of events and that her overall version of events was implausible. The Panel noted that the Student’s guilty plea to a prior plagiarism charge was admissible as to her credibility. The Panel found that the Student’s claim to being unfamiliar with the disciplinary process was supportive of its negative findings on the Student’s credibility on other grounds. The Panel stated that the evidence strongly suggested the Student fabricated the evidence which she submitted to the Tribunal in response to the charges, however it was not necessary to make a specific finding on the issue. The Panel found that the charges were proven on clear and convincing evidence. The Student asked that publication of the matter be denied because of her public, television image. The Panel found that three criteria, and the absence of any mitigating factors, called for a serious penalty. Firstly, it was not the Student’s first offence and she had squandered the opportunity for rehabilitation. Secondly, the Student did not acknowledge her guilt and did not demonstrate remorse or an appreciation of the wrongfulness or seriousness of her acts, and there was a considerable likelihood that the Student would commit further dishonest academic acts should she return to the University before having a significant opportunity to reflect on the matter. Thirdly, the nature of the offence and the fact that the Student was a senior student required that a strong message be sent that such behavior would not be tolerated. The Panel considered previous Tribunal decisions and found that a two-year suspension was inadequate to address the three criteria and that a five-year suspension was too long, as it was reserved for more serious offences. The Panel found that a four-year notation would improve the chances that the Student would come to appreciate the gravity of her conduct. The Panel found that it was appropriate and important to publish notice of the decision, and that given the anonymity requirement, there was no risk to the disclosure of the Student’s identity. The Panel imposed a grade of zero in the two courses; a three-year suspension; a four-year notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; and that a report be issued to the Provost.