Case #462

DATE: February 22, 2006
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. The Student


Hearing Date(s): January 18 and January 25, 2006

Panel Members:
John A. Keefe, Chair
Melanie A. Woodin, Faculty Panel Member
Matto Mildenberger, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Lily Harmer for the University
Jeremy Glick, law student, Downtown Legal Services for The Student
Chris Burr, law student, Downtown Legal Services for The Student

Trial Division - s. B.i.1(f) of Code – concoction – falsified research in conference abstract and podium presentation – guilty plea - Agreed Statement of Facts - conduct violated all University ethical research policies and guidelines – see Policy on Ethical Conduct in Research, s. 4.4 of Faculty of Medicine’s Principles and Responsibilities regarding Conduct of Research, Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans and School of Graduates Studies Student Guide on Ethical Conduct – general deterrence most important consideration – unfair and inappropriate to impose expulsion due to mitigating circumstances - reasonably held belief that second chance was provided by academic supervisor - Dean’s conclusions not supported by file - evidence of remorse and recognition of seriousness of conduct – five-year suspension; five-year notation on transcript; grade assignment of zero for course; and report to Provost

Student charged under s. B.i.1(f), and alternatively, under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to allegations that the Student submitted an abstract and presented a podium presentation at an international conference which contained references to fabricated, falsified and misrepresented research data. The Student pleaded guilty to the charge under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code and not guilty to the charge under s. B.i.1(f) of the Code. The parties submitted an Agreed Statement of Facts. The Panel considered the Agreed Statement of Facts and accepted the guilty plea. The matter proceeded as a contested hearing on sanction. The Panel considered testimony and email correspondence from the Student’s academic supervisor, testimony from the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Meeting Notes of the Student’s meeting with the Dean, the Student’s file, and testimony from the Student’s father. The Panel considered the University’s Policy on Ethical Conduct in Research, s. 4.4 of the Faculty of Medicine’s Principles and Responsibilities regarding Conduct of Research, the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans; and the School of Graduates Studies Student Guide on Ethical Conduct and found that the Student’s conduct violated all of the University’s ethical research policies and guidelines. The Panel found the Student’s conduct to be at the more serious end of academic offences. The Panel considered previous Tribunal cases and found that the principles of general deterrence were the most important consideration when dealing with falsified research because of the impact that such conduct had on the reputation of the University as a centre for research. The Panel found that mitigating circumstances made it unfair and inappropriate to impose the sanction of expulsion. The Panel found that the falsified data was not published in a peer-reviewed journal or thesis; the Student was a first time offender; the Student showed genuine remorse; the Student understood the seriousness of his conduct and did not attempt to minimize the seriousness of his conduct; the Student pleaded guilty at the hearing; the Student openly acknowledged his conduct; the Student made an attempt to remedy the situation and comply with the Tribunal process; the Student did not offer any excuses for his conduct; there was no possibility of repetition of a similar offence by the Student; the Student acknowledged his guilt at a very early stage; the Student reasonably believed, based on his discussions and e-mail correspondence with his academic supervisor, that he was being given a second chance; the Student’s academic supervisor acknowledged to the other researchers in the lab that he had offered the Student a second chance; the Student had been, in effect, put on probation and instructed to perform specific tasks in order to clean up the research for the purposes of a subsequent presentation at a second conference based on the same abstract; the Student was permitted to attend and make a presentation to a reputable international organization at the second conference based on the same abstract; that on the same day that he had made the presentation to the second conference he was advised by his academic supervisor that he was being put on a leave of absence and had been effective suspension since that date; that although his apology to his colleagues came after the second presentation and after he was put on a leave of absence, his apology was genuine and abject, and he acknowledged his remorse and demonstrated that he understood the seriousness of his actions, despite being under no compulsion to apologise as he did; the Student openly acknowledged his wrongdoing when he met with the Dean of Graduate Studies; the Dean’s conclusion that the matter should be referred to the Provost for disciplinary action was based, in part, on her conclusion that the absence of apparent remorse was an aggravating factor which militated against a second chance, however, the Student’s file did not support the Dean’s conclusion that there was no indication of the Student’s guilt or remorse, and there was in fact clear evidence of remorse and a recognition of the seriousness of the Student’s conduct. The Panel imposed a five-year suspension; a five-year notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; a grade of zero in the course; and that a report be issued to the Provost.