Case #605

Case 605 - Sanction
DATE: December 8, 2014 and May 11, 2015
PARTIES: University of Toronto v N.B.

Hearing Date(s): September 29, 2014 and January 26, 2015
Panel Members:
Paul Schabas, Chair
Gabriele D’Eleuterio, Faculty Member
Christopher Tsui, Student Member
Appearances:
Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Lucy Gaspini, Manager, Academic Integrity and Affairs, University of Toronto Mississauga
Nathan Innocente, Teaching Assistant
Julie Waters, Academic Counsellor
Kathy Gruspier, Course Instructor
In Attendance:
Sinead Cutt, Administrative Assistant, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
NOTE: Heard together with Case #624
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d), s. B.i.1(b) and s. B.i.3(b) of the Code – plagiarism, unauthorized assistance–– Student does not appear at hearing – substantially similar papers – identical bibliographies – knew or ought to have known – finding of guilt - s. B.ii.1.(a)(ii) – party to the offence - sanction – no prior offence – grade of zero; three year suspension; notation on transcript until earlier of graduation or four years; report to Provost for publication
Student charged with two offences under s. B.i.1(d), three offenses under s. B.i.1(b) and, in the alternative, three offences under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges included the improperly aiding and assisting with another student’s essay without proper attribution and the Student’s representation of another’s ideas as her own in an essay and an annotated bibliography.
The Student did not appear at the specified time. The Panel waited for 15 minutes after which the doors were locked and a note was left with instructions on entering the building should she attend. The Provost’s office had not heard from the Student since 2011 but had sent emails, a letter which was received by someone sharing the Student’s last name, and left a voicemail with an answering machine identifying itself as the Student’s.
The first charges arose from an assignment the Student submitted a year previously which was substantially similar to a paper that had been submitted during the current year. The second set related to an essay which had significant similarities to another student’s in the course and had annotated bibliographies which were identical.
The instructor of one course testified that she required students to submit papers through turnitin.com, a plagiarism detection site. A current student’s paper showed a 37% match to the Student’s original paper. In addition to similar structure, the paper contained several identical spelling mistakes.
The Teaching Assistant of the second course testified that he had marked the bibliographies and noticed that the Student’s bibliography cited the same 17 sources as one from the same year. There were strong similarities between the two papers and identical mistakes in the bibliographies.
An Academic Counsellor attended a Dean’s Designate meeting with the Student and took notes. The Student did not admit guilt, the notes were not provided, and the Panel placed no weight on her testimony.
The Manager of Academic Integrity and Affairs at the University of Toronto Mississauga also gave evidence about the Dean’s designate meeting and provided the Student’s academic record.
The Panel found that the Student had collaborated with a classmate on the preponderance of the evidence. The Panel found that even if the Student did not appreciate that she had to work independently she ought to have known. The Panel also found that on the balance of probabilities the Student knew or ought to have known that her paper would be used improperly by the other student. The Panel found that, while the facts are different for the two different charges, the Student’s active participation in the collaboration offence was of benefit to the other student and that the Student was party to the offense of plagiarism under s. B.ii.1.(a)(ii) of the Code.
The Panel found the Student was guilty of aiding in the commission of plagiarism, collaborating with another student, and representing as her own work that was prepared by both of them.
The Panel found the Student had committed two different counts of academic misconduct. The University sought a grade of zero for the Student in the course, a four-year suspension and a notation on the Student’s transcript for five years.
The Panel agreed with the University that the starting point on sanction was 2 years and can increase or decrease depending on other factors. However, the cases of four-year suspensions that the University referred to involved prior incidents and the Panel found that to be a compelling factor which differentiated these cases.
The Panel imposed a penalty of a grade of zero in the course, a suspension of three years from September 1, 2014, a notation on the Student’s academic record for the earlier of four years or graduation, and that the case be reported to the Provost for publication.