Case #634

Case 634 - Sanction
Case 634 - Appeal

DATES: December 14, 2011 (Guilt), March 22, 2012 (Sanction)
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. M.K.


Hearing Date(s): November 23, 2011

Panel Members:

Ms. Roslyn Tsao, Chair
Prof. Annette Sanger, Faculty Member
Ms. Amy Gullage, Student Member


Appearances:

Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Dr. Michael Ratcliffe, Faculty of Medicine

Dr. James Carlyle, Faculty of Medicine
Mr. M.K., the Student


In Attendance:
Ms. Jane Alderdice, Director of Quality Assessment and Governance
Prof. Berry Smith, Dean's Designate
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

NOTE: Affirmed on appeal

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(f) of Code – concoction – falsified research results – credibility of Student – shifting explanations – ex-post rationalization – clear evidence of falsification to make the research results positive or successful – double jeopardy defence – previously cautioned in writing by Chair although exonerated of data falsification in the end – academic dishonesty rules are not relaxed if one re-submits offending material even if it was under investigation in the past – the letters supported a finding that Student ought to have known – finding of guilt – 30 days to make submissions regarding penalty – nature of the offence is serious and inexcusable – Student lacks insight into his actions and their effect on University – Student’s allegation of intimidation by his supervisor is an aggravating factor – grade assignment of zero for course; five-year suspension; recommendation that the Student be expelled

Student charged under s. B.i.1(f) of the Code. The charges related to allegations that the Student falsified his research results (“Problem Slides) being used toward his Ph.D. work. The Panel considered and rejected the Student’s argument that he was guilty of sloppiness and inattention but not of knowingly committing the offence. The Panel found the Student’s shifting explanations to be concerning. The Panel stated that the Student’s submission, that he was not using the Problem Slides to make his research paper appear successful as the Problem Slides showed an unsuccessful result anyway, to be an ex-post rationalization without any credible foundation. The Panel found that one of the slides was absolutely presented to demonstrate positive research finding. The Student pleaded a “double jeopardy” defence. He had previously been cautioned in writing by the Chair of his previous lab about the same concerns which are subjects of this hearing even though the Chair exonerated the Student and his previous supervisor from data fabrication or falsification. The Panel rejected the double jeopardy argument, reasoning that the academic dishonesty rules were not somehow relaxed if one re-submitted offending material even if the material was the subject of an investigation in the past. On the contrary, the fact that the Student was cautioned previously supported a finding that the Student ought reasonably to have known that the offence was committed based on the extended definition of “knowingly” in the Code. The Panel found the Student guilty under s. B.i.1(f). Regarding penalty, the Panel ordered the University to provide its submission to the Student/Tribunal within 30 days of the Decision and the Student to provide his reply submission within 30 days. After receiving the submissions, the Panel stated that the deliberate falsification of research results by the Student in a Ph.D program was a serious and inexcusable offence. The Panel also stated that the Student lacked insight into his actions and their effect on the University’s reputation. The Panel found the Student’s submission of allegations of intimidation by his supervisor as a mitigating circumstance to be an aggravating factor at this stage as no response could have been made to rebut the allegation. The Panel imposed a grade assignment of zero in the course; a five-year suspension; and a recommendation that the Student be expelled.