Case #585

DATE: September 1, 2010
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. M.F.W.


Hearing Date(s): June 3, 2010

Panel Members:
Michael Hines, Chair
Professor Markus Bussman, Faculty Panel Member
Elena Kuzmin, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, for the University
Betty-Ann Campbell, Law Clerk for Assistant Discipline Counsel
Professor Eleanor Irwin, Dean’s Designate UTSC
Don MacMillan, Registrar, OISE

In Attendance:
Professor John Britton, Dean’s Designate
Professor Denis Smyth, Course Instructor
Alexandra Lucc, Course Teaching Assistant

Trial Division – s. B.I.1.(c); s. B.I.3(b) of Code – impersonation on an exam – academic dishonesty – male impersonating female student – hearing not attended – reasonable notice of hearing provided – peremptory hearing – previous adjournment – Notice of Hearing - finding on evidence of guilt – negative inference from failure to attend hearing – nature of the offence – deterrence – University submission on penalty accepted - grade assignment of zero for course; five-year suspension; seven-year notation on transcript; report to Provost; and recommendation that the Student be expelled

Student charged with an offence under s. B.I.1(c), and alternatively, under s. B.I.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to the allegations that the Student had someone impersonate them to write an Exam. The Student was not present for the hearing. The University argued that the Panel should proceed in the Student’s absence, observing that the hearing had been adjourned previously and had been made returnable on a peremptory basis. The Student had been issued a Notice of Hearing noting that the hearing may take place without her should she not attend. The University attempted to contact the Student 34 days before the hearing and received no response. A Notice of Hearing was then issued seventeen days before the hearing. The Panel was advised the Student had accessed their ROSI account indicating she was in contact with the University. The Panel unanimously accepted the University’s submission to proceed in the Student’s absence, recognizing that if some unknown factor was present, the Student could raise it by way of appeal. In analyzing the case on the merits, the Panel heard evidence that a male student attempted to access the Exam room and impersonate the Student, a female. Based on the evidence, the Panel found the Student guilty of having someone impersonate her at an Exam contrary to s. B.I.1(c) and of academic dishonesty contrary to s. B.1.3(b) of the Code. The Panel reviewed the University’s submission noting that the Guidelines on Sanctions issued by the Provost call for expulsion in a case of impersonation at an exam. The University noted that, while not binding, these sanctions are appropriate given the severity of the offence and are in accordance with the factors laid out in the case of Mr. C.. Discipline Counsel put forward the argument that impersonation is not an offence that can be engaged in negligently or spontaneously. Discipline Counsel further characterized the offence as especially egregious, as it is possible for a plagiarized piece of work to contain at least some original material, while in the case of impersonation at an exam, there is no original work. In terms of general deterrence, the University argued the strongest message was necessary given the nature of the offence and detriment to the University. The Panel further noted the Student’s failure to appear reflected a lack of respect for the University and its governing processes and should be considered an exacerbating factor. The Panel noted that the Office of the Provost may wish to consider including the fact that the Panel may draw a negative inference should the Student fail to attend hearings in future Notices of Hearings. The Panel held they were not prepared to speculate in a manner that excuses the Student’s non-attendance, concluding they were prepared to treat the unexplained absence as an exacerbating factor. The Panel once again recognized that if some unknown factor was present the Student could raise it by way of appeal. Looking at the case history on the offence of impersonation, the University noted that the usual sanctions for the offence of impersonation ranged from three-year suspensions to expulsion. The Panel noted that the cases where suspensions were imposed as a penalty the Student was present and took steps to persuade the Panel it would achieve the necessary personal deterrence. The Panel accepted the University’s submission on penalty and imposed a final grade of zero in the course, a five-year suspension, a seven-year notation be put on the Student’s transcript and that a report to the Provost be issued. The Panel further imposed a recommendation to the President that the Student be expelled from the University.