Case #588

DATE: July 28, 2011
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. S.G.


Hearing Date(s): June 20, 2011

Panel Members:
Ms. Roslyn Tsao, Chair
Prof. Markus Bussmann, Faculty Member
Mr. Robert Chu, Student Member


Appearances:
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Prof. Mohammad Mojahedi
Prof. Sean Hum
Prof. Konstantinos Sarris


In Attendance:
Ms. Jane Alerdice, Director of Quality Assessment and Governance, School of Graduate Studies
Ms. Natalie Ramtahal, Coordinator, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(f) of Code – concoction – thesis contained concocted statements – hearing not attended – Student requested adjournment but failed to provide information requested by the Tribunal – allowed matter to proceed in the absence of the Student – affidavits submitted and oral testimony given by the Student’s thesis supervisor – University met the burden of proof – Student claimed “honest” and “unintentional” mistakes – Panel rejected the claim and stated that even if accepted, it cannot be a defence based on the extended definition of “knowingly” – finding of guilt – Student ought to have known that he was submitting concocted work for his thesis – deliberate concoction and a lack of appreciation about seriousness of misconduct – differentiated the case from D. (Case No. 406) – grade assignment of zero for course; recommendation that the degree be cancelled and recalled; permanent notation on transcript; and report to Provost

Student charged under s. B.i.1(f) of the Code. The charges related to allegations that the Student’s thesis contained concocted statements which were essential to the integrity of his thesis. The Student did not attend the hearing. The hearing dates were adjourned twice to accommodate the Student. The Student requested adjournment for the third time but failed to provide the information requested by the Tribunal. As such, the Panel allowed the matter to proceed in the absence of the Student. The Student’s thesis supervisor (“the Professor”) as well as two other professors in the Department submitted affidavits and testified orally. The Panel found the Professor to be sincere and credible. Based on the testimony of the Professor, the Panel held that the University met the burden of proof for each of the four allegations of concoction that (1) the Student misrepresented that he used “series loading capacitors” in the design and construction of his transmission line (circuit boards), (2) the Student misrepresented that operational series loading elements were inserted into the line, (3) the Student’s simulated and measured results were necessarily fabricated, and (4) the Student digitally altered a photograph included in his thesis. The Student claimed that any errors in his research were the results of honest and unintentional mistakes. The Panel rejected this claim because (1) the Student has demonstrated a pattern of first denying any misrepresentation and after being confronted with incontrovertible evidence, providing very different explanations and finally suggesting that the results were theoretically good enough despite the errors; and (2) the facts of the case rules out the possibility of an unintentional mistake. Even if the claim of “honest” and “unintentional” mistakes was accepted by the Panel, it would not be a defence based on the extended definition of “knowingly” in the Code. Accordingly, the Panel found the Student guilty under s. B.i.1(f). The Panel stated that the Student ought to have known, as a graduate student, that he was submitting concocted academic work for an M.A.Sc. thesis. In considering an appropriate sanction, the Panel stated that there was no evidence of extenuating circumstances and that there was deliberate concoction and a lack of appreciation about the seriousness of such academic misconduct. The Panel again noted the Student’s pattern of behaviour. The Panel differentiated this case from D. (Case No. 406) in that this case did not involve a consideration of the Student’s rehabilitation/reformation against the need for deterrence and protection of the public. The Panel imposed a grade of zero for the course; a recommendation to the Governing Council that it cancel and recall the M.A.Sc. awarded to the Student; a permanent notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; and that a report be issued to the Provost.