Case #624

Case 624 - Sanction

DATE: December 8, 2014 and May 11, 2015
PARTIES: University of Toronto v A.M.

Hearing Date(s): September 29, 2014 and January 26, 2015
Panel Members:
Paul Schabas, Chair
Gabriele D’Eleuterio, Faculty Member
Christopher Tsui, Student Member
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 #605
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d), s. B.i.1(b) and s. B.i.3(b) of the Code – plagiarism – three counts in two different classes – requested postponement granted – Student not present at hearing – substantially similar papers – identical bibliographies – identical spelling errors – finding of guilt – knew or ought to have known - – sanction – no prior offence – grade of zero in each course; three year suspension; notation on transcript until earlier of graduation or four years; report to Provost for publication
The Student did not appear at the specified time for the hearing. 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 matter was initially scheduled for July but postponed at the request of the Student.
Student charged with three offences under s. B.i.1(d), three offences 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 Student’s representation of another’s ideas as her own in two essays and an annotated bibliography.
The first charges arose from an assignment the Student submitted which was substantially similar to a paper that had been submitted a year earlier. The second set related to an essay which had significant similarities to another student’s in the course and annotated bibliographies which were identical.
The instructor of the first course testified that she had warned the students about what constitutes plagiarism and required students to submit papers through, a plagiarism detection site. The Student’s paper showed a 37% match. In addition to similar structure, the paper contained several identical spelling mistakes. The Student did not cite the earlier paper.
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. She testified that the Student had admitted to plagiarizing and signed a form admitting guilt, but the Panel found her testimony and notes unconvincing and placed no weight on it.
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 was satisfied that the offences under s. B.i.1(d) had been demonstrated. The similarities between the papers were unmistakeable and the evidence overwhelming. Similarly, 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 found the Student was guilty of knowingly representing as her own work the work of another, of improperly collaborating with another student, and of representing as her own work, work that was prepared by both herself and another student.
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 each 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.