Case #647

DATE: October 30, 2012
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. A.K.


Hearing Date(s): May 22, 2012; June 5, 2012; June 7, 2012; June 18, 2012

Panel Members:
Mr. John A. Keefe, Chair
Professor Gabriele D’Eleuterio, Faculty Member
Ms. Vy Nguyen, Student Member


Appearances:
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Ms. Sierra Robart, DLS for the Student

Mr. Ab Gehani, Manager of Client Services at the University's Help Desk

Dr. Sheryl Stevenson, Writing Specialist at the Scarborough and St. George campuses

Mr. Kevin Lo, Managing Director, Digital Forensics and Electronic Discoveries at Froese Forensics

In Attendance:
Ms. A.K., the Student
Prof. Eleanor Irwin, Dean's Designate

Ms. Betty-Ann Campbell, Law Clerk, Paliare Roland

Ms. Natalie Ramtahal, Coordinator, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

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

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d) of Code – plagiarism – allegations that Student submitted a purchased essay – Student claimed that the essay was her original work and submitted electronic files and notes to corroborate her claim – involvement of a person named “Bryan” – metadata analysis revealed Bryan as author of the document – Panel accepted the expert testimony that the only way to explain was if the document was created on Bryan’s computer – Panel found Student’s notes were her own and corroborated her claim to an extent – Panel concluded that Student gave her notes to Bryan who put them into an essay form – finding of guilt – Panel was not convinced Student purchased the essay – not appropriate to backdate commencement of the suspension unless in close proximity to the date of the hearing – Panel backdated the suspension to commence on a date that would allow Student to resume her studies in the summer term – two-year suspension appropriate for first time plagiarism offenders – Panel would have imposed a far more severe penalty had it found the Student purchased the essay – penalty should meet the need for general deterrence without unduly punishing Student – grade assignment of zero for course; two-year suspension; three-year notation on transcript or until graduation, whichever is earlier; report to Provost

Student charged under s. B.i.1 (d) of the Code. The charges related to allegations that the Student submitted a purchased essay. An originality report by turnitin.com of the Student’s essay showed a similarity index of 81%, meaning that 81% of the words in her essay matched a paper submitted by a student at York University. The Student claimed that the essay was her original work. To corroborate her claim, she submitted the electronic files of her essay and handwritten notes she claimed to have written while preparing for the essay. The Student also claimed that she sent her essay to a person named Bryan to receive assistance but was told he could not help with her essay. The issue at the hearings was whether the University could prove on a balance of probabilities that the essay was not the Student’s original work. The metadata analysis of the file showed the author as Bryan and the company as ZAS. Bryan was known by the University as a disbarred lawyer who assisted students in writing papers. The Panel accepted the expert testimony that the only way the metadata on the Word document could show Bryan as the author and ZAS as the company would be if the document was created on Bryan’s computer. With regards to the notes, the Panel found that the Student prepared them during the course and that they showed that she had real input into the ideas and content of the essay. Based on the above evidence, the Panel concluded that the Student took notes and gave them to Bryan who took the words and ideas from the notes and put them into an essay form which the Student submitted as her own work. Consequently, the Panel concluded that the essay was prepared at least in part by Bryan and found the Student guilty under s. B.i.1(d). However, the Panel was not convinced that the Student purchased the essay from Bryan. With regards to the proposed penalty, the Panel rejected the Student’s submission that the suspension should commence on the date of the offence or the date of the notice of hearing. It was not appropriate to backdate the commencement of the suspension unless it was in close proximity to the date of the hearing. However, the Panel stated that it was appropriate for the suspension to commence on a date that would allow the Student to resume her studies in the summer term of 2014. Accordingly, the Panel backdated the commencement to May 1, 2012. In considering the penalty, the Panel noted that had it found that the Student purchased her essay, it would have imposed a far more severe penalty. The Panel found that a two-year suspension was appropriate for first offenders found guilty of plagiarism. The Panel noted that there was little likelihood of repetition as the Student completed all her courses necessary to graduate. The Panel found that there were no extenuating circumstances and emphasized the need for general deterrence without avoiding a penalty that unduly punishes the Student. The Panel imposed a grade assignment of zero for the course; a two-year suspension; a three-year notation on the transcript or until graduation whichever was to occur first; and a report be issued to the Provost.