Case #625

DATE: February 13, 2013
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. L.W.


Hearing Date(s): November 28, 2012

Panel Members:
Ms. Sarah Kraicer, Chair
Prof. Ernest Lam, Faculty Member
Mr. Afshin Ameri, Student Member


Appearances:
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University


In Attendance:
The Student
Ms. Lucy Gaspini, Manager, Academic Integrity and Affairs, UTM

Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(b), s. B.i.1(d), s. B.i.1(f) and s. B.i.3(b) of the Code – unauthorized aid, plagiarism, concocted sources and academic dishonesty submitted essay containing another student’s work – submitted essay containing plagiarized passages and references to concocted sources – Agreed Statement of Facts – guilty plea accepted – reasonable to infer guilt in the absence of evidence of the content of the cited journal source where passages bear a close correspondence to the text of uncited websites – revised essay to conceal plagiarism – contested hearing on sanction – two prior offences – Student admitted guilt – Student was absent from University for almost two years before hearing – grade assignment of zero in two courses; four-year suspension; six-year notation on transcript; report to Provost for publication.

Student charged with offences related to two different assignments in two different classes. The first series of charges included one offence under s. B.i.1(d), one offence under s. B.i.1(b), and in the alternative, one offence under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. These charges related to an allegation that the Student did not attend to conduct field work and instead obtained data from a classmate. The Student submitted the calculations provided by the classmate as if they were his own. The Student met with the Dean’s designate regarding these charges and admitted guilt. The Panel accepted the Student’s guilty plea for this first series of charges on the basis of an Agreed Statement of Facts. The University withdrew the alternative charge.


The second series of charges included one offence under s. B.i.1(d), one offence under s. B.i.1(f), and in the alternative, one offence under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The second series of charges also included one offence under s. B.i.3(b) not issued in the alternative to any other charges. These charges related to an allegation that the Student submitted a draft essay that included verbatim or nearly verbatim passages from secondary sources that were not properly cited. The Student was required to submit a draft essay for review by classmates. The classmate reviewing the Student’s paper suspected that parts of it may have been copied from another source. The classmate entered the first line of the Student’s essay on the Google search engine and found that sentence and other portions verbatim in a website. The classmate confronted the Student and recommended he speak with the professor. The Student refused and asked the classmate not to speak with the professor. The classmate emailed the professor the next day and related his concerns. The classmate attached a copy of the Student’s draft essay, as well as the source of the passages copied verbatim without citation. The professor requested the Student submit his draft essay and meet as soon as possible. The Student responded several days later by email to schedule a meeting. Attached to this email was a draft essay that, contrary to assignment requirements, was significantly different than the draft essay submitted for peer review to the classmate. Approximately 75% of the content of the draft essay submitted for peer review included verbatim or nearly verbatim passages from secondary sources that were not properly cited. The Student met with the Dean’s designate regarding these charges and indicated that he was not guilty. The Student, at a later, unspecified time, changed his plea to guilty on these charges. The Panel accepted the Student’s guilty plea on the charges. The Panel found that the Student knowingly included uncited material and concocted sources in his draft essay. Passages from the draft essay were found verbatim in uncited websites that were instead cited to two journal articles. The Panel noted that while there was no evidence before it of the content of those journal articles, it was reasonable to infer from the extensive use of websites in the draft essay and the close correspondence between the text of the websites and the draft essay that the passages were in fact taken from the websites, not the journal articles. The Panel also found that the Student revised this draft essay between the time he submitted it for peer review and the time he submitted it to the professor, contrary to assignment requirements, for the purpose of concealing the fact that the original draft contained plagiarism from unattributed websites. The University withdrew the alternative charges.


The Student had been previously found guilty of offences under s. B.i.1(b) and s. B.ii.1(a)(ii) of the Code. The Student received decanal sanctions for these offences after admitting guilt. There were no mitigating circumstances surrounding the commission of the current offences before the Tribunal. The Student cooperated with the University throughout the process. The Student attended the hearing, expressed remorse, and in large measure acknowledged responsibility for his actions. The Student had been absent from the University for nearly two years prior to the hearing date of his own accord. While the Panel did not feel it was appropriate to backdate the sanction to when the Student ceased to take courses, the Student’s voluntary withdrawal was a relevant mitigating factor for the purposes of sanction. The Panel imposed a final grade of zero in the two courses, a four-year suspension, a six-year notation on the Student’s transcript, and ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication.