Case #634 - Appeal

Case 634 - Finding
Case 634 - Sanction

DATE: October 4, 2012
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. M.K.


Hearing Date(s): October 3, 2012

Panel Members:
Patricia D.S. Jackson, Chair
Faye Mishna, Faculty Member
Graeme Norval, Faculty Member
Yuchao Niu, Student Member


Appearances:
Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University

Discipline Appeal Board – Student appeal from sanction – appeal limited to the Panel’s recommendation that he be expelled – hearing not attended despite the accommodations Student received regarding scheduling – hearing proceeded in Student’s absence – Student claimed he made every effort to address mistakes and did not attempt to deceive and blamed the prosecution and his supervisor – attempt to introduce new evidence did not meet the criteria for the admission of fresh evidence – Student’s allegations were contrary to factual findings – deference especially appropriate in cases such as this where credibility was at the heart of the decision – Board would have reached the same conclusion even if it was not for deference – discussion of Chelin factors – deliberate fabrication of research results was a serious and inexcusable offence – detriment to the University exacerbated by the inclusion of fabricated data in a grant proposal – Student did not demonstrate remorse and offered no prospect of rehabilitation – evidence of bad character – deterring misrepresentation of research results must be a significant priority – appeal dismissed

Appeal by the Student from a Tribunal decision in which he was found guilty of deliberately falsifying research results in his Ph.D. program, contrary to s. B.i.1(f) of the Code, and sentenced to a recommendation that the Student be expelled. The Student only appealed the Panel’s recommendation that he be expelled and did not appeal the finding of academic misconduct and other sanctions. Before the hearing, the Student had sought and received accommodations regarding scheduling of the hearing. The Board allowed an extension of time to appeal the Trial Panel’s decision and scheduled the hearing on a date to accommodate the Student’s situation and wish to order the transcript of the tribunal hearing. After a number of correspondences with the University, which included contradicting reasons he provided for his non-attendance, the Student did not attend the hearing. No one on the Student’s behalf appeared at the hearing to explain his absence. Therefore, the hearing proceeded in his absence. In his submissions, the Student asserted that he had made every effort to address his mistakes and did not attempt to deceive anyone. He also claimed that the prosecution was motivated by the supervisor’s concern that if he left, the supervisor would lose grant funding. The Board found that this attempt to introduce new evidence did not meet the criteria for the admission of fresh evidence. Furthermore, the Student’s allegations were entirely contrary to the factual findings made by the Trial Panel. On the issue of deference, the Board stated that as noted in the CHK appeal decision (Case 596, 597 & 598), Appeal Boards had been reluctant to embrace the broad powers authorized by the Code and instead had generally analyzed decisions under appeal to examine whether the Trial Panel made an error in: the application of general administrative law; the interpretation and application of the large body of University Tribunal and Appeals Board cases; or fact finding, particularly where the findings are unsupported by any evidence. The Board further stated that deference was particularly appropriate in cases such as this where credibility was at the heart of the Panel’s decision. However, the Board stated that it would have reached the same conclusion as the Trial Panel even if it was not for deference: the sanction was not overly punitive in light of the Chelin factors. The Board agreed with the Panel that the deliberate falsification of research results by the Student in a Ph.D. program was a serious and inexcusable offence and found that it clearly supported the sanction imposed. Moreover, the detriment to the University was clear and exacerbated by the inclusion of fabricated data in a grant proposal from the University. As for extenuating circumstances, the Board found that the Student had not demonstrated any remorse or insight and offered no prospect of rehabilitation, which was demonstrated in his submissions as well as his attempt to engage the appellate process to delay the result. Also, there was a likelihood of a repetition of the offence as the Student chose to disregard the warning given previously by an academic journal that had expressed concern about data fabrication. As for the character, the Board stated that the evidence suggested that the Student misled the participants in the discipline process, shifted and fabricated evidence, and attempted to blame others; this was not evidence of good character. Finally, deterring the misrepresentation of research results must be a significant priority. Appeal dismissed.