Case #495

DATE: information not available
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Mr. T-F. O. K.

Hearing Date(s): May 26 and November 26, 2008

Panel Members:
Bernard Fishbein, Chair
Professor Kristina Dahlin, Faculty Member
Dr. Joan Saary, Student Panel Member

Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Mr. Max Shapiro, DLS Representative for Mr. K., the Student

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(a) of Code – plagiarism – course work in two courses – Agreed Statement of Facts – guilty plea with regard to one assignment – charges disputed with regard to another assignment – third party submitted copy of essay – explanation of circumstances not credible – finding of guilt – Joint Submission on Penalty – effective date of proposed sanction disputed – de facto greater suspension because of loss of work in full year courses – but for agreement of parties suspension of greater duration would have been imposed – delay in Tribunal process – prior academic offence – little remorse – academic misconduct not admitted until sentencing – impact of suspension would work to greater effect because of delay in Tribunal process – delay in Tribunal process not attributed to Student – suspension not to commence until the end of second term – grade assignment of zero for two courses; three-year suspension; four-year notation on transcript; and report to Provost

The Student was charged with two offences under s. B.i.1(a) and, alternatively, two offences under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to alleged acts of plagiarism with regard to two assignments, submitted in two courses, both of which contained unacknowledged verbatim or nearly verbatim text from another student’s paper. The Student pleaded guilty to the first allegation of plagiarism but disputed the charges with respect to the second assignment. The matter proceeded as an Agreed Statement of Facts. With respect to the first assignment, the Student admitted that he had copied passages from another student's paper which was posted on the course website. With respect to the charges in the second assignment, the Student submitted an essay which was virtually identical to an essay submitted by another student in the course. Upon investigation it was discovered that the other student in the course had resubmitted, with corrections, an essay which she had previously submitted in a summer course. The Student was also in the summer course with the other student. The other student confessed to altering her essay for the summer course and re-submitting it with the alterations in the course in question. The essay submitted by the Student contained the same errors as the original essay submitted by the other student in the summer course. The other student could not explain how the Student obtained a copy of her essay. The Student claimed that he had written the essay for the summer course initially but that his USB had gone missing from the computer lab and that it was irretrievable without the USB key. The Student claimed that he later discovered his draft of the essay on his sister’s laptop and he submitted it to fulfill the essay requirement in the course in question. The Manager of the UTM police testified that no report was filed regarding the purported missing USB key. Participants in the investigation process asserted that the Student’s previous explanation of events ran contrary to the Student’s evidence in chief. The reference material footnoted in the essay was not available from the Library where the Student asserted he had done the research nor did documents that the Student provided during the investigation match the footnotes or quotes contained in the essay. The library records at the University showed that the other student had borrowed the relevant books footnoted in the essay at the relevant time. The Panel found that the Student’s explanation was not credible. The Panel found that there was no evidence to support the Student’s claim that the other student had obtained a copy of his essay and submitted it as her work in both the summer course and later in the second course with some alterations. The Panel found that, even in absence of any direct evidence of how the Student had obtained the other Student’s essay, on the balance of probabilities, the University had established that contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, the Student had knowingly represented as his own the work of another. Although the parties made a Joint Submission on Penalty, the effective date of the proposed three-year suspension was disputed. The University proposed that the date of suspension commence at the beginning of the next term. The Student opposed that proposal since it would have turned the three year suspension into a de facto greater suspension as he would have lost the work already completed in his full year courses. The Student claimed that if the Tribunal deliberations had concluded earlier he would not have enrolled in the full year courses and that the delay in the tribunal process made the impact of the penalty more severe. The Panel stated that but for the agreement of the parties, it would have imposed a longer suspension. It was not the Student’s first offence with respect to similar misconduct, he displayed little remorse or contrition over his academic misconduct and he resisted any admission of his academic misconduct until the sentencing portion. The Panel observed that, having accepted the agreed upon suspension, the actual impact of the suspension would work to an even greater effect because of the delay in the Tribunal process. The delay in the Tribunal process could not be attributed to the Student. The Panel accepted the Student’s position and ordered that the suspension not commence until the end of the second term. The Panel imposed a grade of zero for 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.