Case #601

DATE: March 8, 2011
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. S.P.


Hearing Date(s): September 14, 2010

Panel Members:
Andrew Pinto, Chair
Dr. Roslyn Thomas-Long, Faculty Member
Amy Gullage, Student Member

Appearances:
Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Professor John Brown, Dean’s Designate
Camille Labchuk, DLS for the Student
S.P., the Student

Trial Division – s. B.I.1(d); s. B.I.1(f); s. B.I.1(b); s. B.I.3(b) of Code – plagiarism – concocted sources – purchased essay– Agreed Statement of Facts – guilty plea – finding of guilt – no prior academic offences – aggravating factors – actively misled the University – campaign of concerted deception – see CHK case – see Ms. L – see A.M. – see A.K. – see Ms. T - final grade of zero in the Course; five-year suspension; seven-year notation on transcript; report to Provost

Student charged with four offences under s. B.I.1(d), s. B.I.1(f), s. B.I.1(b) and s. B.I.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to the allegations that the Student purchased a customized essay, knowingly represented the work of another as his own, included others ideas and expressions that were not his own, received unauthorized assistance in writing the essay, contained incorrect references, and committed plagiarism. The matter proceeded on an Agreed Statement of Facts. The Student pled guilty to the charges under s. B.I.1(d), s. B.I.3(b) and s. B.I.1(b). The University then withdrew the charge under s. B.I.1(f) and stated that if the Panel convicted the Student of either of the charges under s. B.I.1(d) or s. B.I.1(b), they would withdraw the charge under s. B.I.3(b). On the basis of the Agreed Statement of Facts and the documents contained in a Joint book of Documents submitted, the Panel accepted the Student’s guilty plea on the two charges. The University withdrew the remaining charges. The Student’s representative submitted there were mitigating factors and that the appropriate sanction was a three to four year suspension from the University. The Student indicated he was President of a University Students’ Association and was devoted to this extra-curricular activity. They also alluded to helping his sibling and that his father’s business overseas was in trouble. The Student admitted he made a bad choice. In submissions concerning the sanction, Discipline Counsel noted the aggravating circumstances of the Student’s conduct, namely the commercial aspect of the fraud, the planning and deliberation of the Student’s actions, and the many opportunities to reconsider their actions and come clean that the Student missed, having instead repeatedly attempted to mislead the University. The Discipline Counsel submitted that the Student’s actions to mislead the University when confronted amounted to a concerted campaign of deception. Discipline Counsel noted that three other classmates of the Student had also been involved in a discipline proceeding regarding the submission of purchased essays from the same facility as the Student, the CHK case. Reasons for the CHK case had not been released and therefore could not be considered at the time of the hearing. Discipline Counsel nor the Student’s counsel could comment on that panel’s reasoning. Discipline Counsel concluded by characterizing the case as involving one of the most serious academic offences alongside an aftermath of deception and little evidence of mitigating circumstances. The Student’s representative characterized the Student as a first time offender who had eventually cooperated with the University and pled guilty. The representative further characterized the recommendation for expulsion as excessive and inconsistent with the Panel’s previous rulings. The representative also acknowledged that the Student continued to mislead the University after the commission of the offense, but submitted the Student was very unlikely to reoffend. The Panel looked at the Sopinka factors as articulated in the Mr. C. decision. The Panel noted the lack of prior disciplinary history of the Student. In looking at the 12 cases presented by the parties in the Joint Book of Policies and Joint book of Documents that involved a one time offender being recommended for expulsion, the Panel noted no case involved a recommendation of expulsion for a one-time offender. The Panel noted that a one-time offence can not never result in a recommendation of expulsion, but rather that the nature of the one-time offence and the other circumstances would have to be very grave to warrant a recommendation for expulsion. The Panel further noted that short of a crisis event for an extracurricular commitment where a student had little choice but to be involved, it would be difficult to find that involvement would amount to extenuating circumstances material to a sanction decision. The Panel noted the Student’s actions to mislead the University and agreed with Discipline Counsel’s characterization of the misconduct as a campaign of concerted deception, but held that this was insufficient to warrant a recommendation for expulsion. The Panel also took issue with the CHK decision, a decision in which students submitted purchased essays having, each had two prior academic offenses, and received, respectively, five-year suspensions as sanctions. The Panel questioned whether the majority was correct. The Panel distinguished the Student’s case from the submitted cases of Ms. L, A.M., A.K., and the CHK decisions holding that the Student’s conduct was not as egregious as the students’ actions within those cases. The Panel noted, though, that the Student’s actions were more egregious than the student in the Ms. T decision, who received only a two-year suspension for a purchased essay conviction. The Panel held that the Student’s deception was a significant aggravating factor that warranted the imposition of the strongest suspension available. The Panel imposed a final grade of zero in the Course, a five-year suspension from the University, a seven year notation on the Student’s transcript, and that a report to the Provost be issued.